In recent years, responding to climate disasters has become something of an M.O. of far-right extremists. As Grist and HuffPost have reported, Stewart Rhodes and members of the militia he leads, the Oath Keepers, were in the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017; other far-right groups camped out in a nearby refugee community for more than two months after Harvey made landfall. Armed right-wing vigilantes set up wildfire checkpoints in Oregon in 2020, and another far-right militia responded to the 2022 Oak Fire in Mariposa, California.
These groups have motives in responding to crises like these. Providing relief, and embedding in recovering communities, can burnish their reputation, serve as a recruitment tactic, and, most consequentially, sow distrust in the government. Now, Rolling Stone reports, far-right actors appear to be mobilizing to a new kind of disaster: mass shootings.
According to geolocated footage reviewed by the magazine, members of a right-wing militia called Patriots for America — whose volunteers patrol the southern border with long guns and regularly espouse conspiracy theories targeting migrants — were on the scene, and spent almost 10 minutes beyond the police line, while law enforcement responded to the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022. Last fall, armed neo-Nazis responded to the mass-casualty gun rampage in Lewiston, Maine, and gained access to the shooter’s registered address. More in the Rolling Stone report.
With the jury phase of the NRA’s civil fraud trial set to end February 16, there’s uncertainty over what claims jurors will hear. The NRA and individual defendants are alleged to have violated two state statutes that govern nonprofits. They want the claims brought under one of the statutes nullified, arguing that the law in question does not cover them and that the claims are redundant.
In response to Judge Joel M. Cohen’s concerns about both sets of claims going to the jury, the New York Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to the court on February 10 that argues all of the claims should stand. In a newsletter item last week, The Trace said that a defeat could derail the office’s effort to win monetary awards. Not so, said Sean Delany, an attorney who formerly oversaw the attorney general’s charities bureau. He said that the defendants can be forced to repay the NRA for misuse of assets under both laws. “Restitution is available under either statute, assuming that the attorney general proves the necessary facts,” Delany said. —Will Van Sant
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In a speech to NRA members last week, Donald Trump vowed to undo gun regulations enacted under the Biden administration, specifically pointing to an order for the ATF to implement a “zero tolerance” policy on lawbreaking gun dealers and restrictions on pistol-stabilizing braces, a popular gun accessory that has been used in some mass shootings. The former president promised the crowd that “no one will lay a finger on your firearms” if he returns to office in 2025. [Politico]
One person was killed and five were injured in a shooting on an elevated train platform in a New York City subway station during the Monday evening commute. Police said the victims range in age from 14 to 71, and attributed the cause of the shooting to a dispute between two groups of teenagers that unraveled into gunfire. [Associated Press/Gothamist]
In South Carolina, an NRA-backed legislative effort to allow open carry of handguns is on the verge of collapse. After the state Senate added limited requirements to the “constitutional carry” bill, hard-line gun groups — with politics more to the right than the NRA’s — mounted a pressure campaign for House Republicans to reject the measure. [The Post and Courier]
In the months since 18 people were killed in a gun massacre in Lewiston, Maine, police in the state have used its “yellow flag” law, a softer version of a so-called red flag law, an average of once per day. Meanwhile, as lawmakers consider reforms, a group of mental health professionals are working on recommendations to improve the protective measure. [Portland Press Herald]
Tomorrow marks six years since Linda Zhang’s son, Peter Wang, was shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Zhang and her husband’s grief has been complicated by language barriers and cultural differences; they’ve had to navigate their loss in unusual isolation. “Peter was always my translator,” Zhang said. [The New York Times]
Over the past 18 years, the number of gun deaths in Wisconsin has been steadily rising. The increase has been driven not only by a well-documented surge in homicides, but also by a climbing number of firearm suicides. As in much of the country, the epicenter of the crisis is in the state’s rural and suburban counties. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
How to Keep Armed Militias Out of Your City: Experts on the militant far-right say state laws provide options, even when openly carried guns are permitted and communities are barred from setting their own firearm restrictions. (September 2018)