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Guns And Diversity A Recipe For Extremism In Nevada?

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Associated Press

Armed supporter of Cliven Bundy during the standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in April 2014.

A new report about extremist groups by a progressive think-tank in Washington, D.C. says Nevada's liberal gun laws are part of the reason for the rise in extremist actions here.

The report points to the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014; the murder of two Metro police officers that same year by two avowed government haters; and this year's occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge, instigated by a Bundy family member.

Some Bundy family members and supporters are on trial for the 2014 standoff, including clan patriarch Cliven Bundy.

The Center for American Progress report, "Violent Words, Violent Crimes," says that loopholes in laws on background checks for the sale or transfer of guns is a major problem here.

Chelsea Parsons is a co-author of the report. She told KNPR's State of Nevada for many extremist groups arming themselves is perceived as a duty.

"For many of these groups, a core component of their ideology is a call to arms," she said. 

However, the lack of a background check on all gun sales can hurt efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. 

"It really does undermine any other effort to prevent dangerous people from being able to have easy access to fire arms," she said. 

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Parsons pointed to the case of Jarrod Miller. He is the extremist, who along with his wife Amanda Miller, shot and killed two Metro police officers in June of 2014. According to Parsons, Miller would not have been allowed to purchase a gun so instead he turned to Facebook to buy a gun without a background check. 

Annette Magnus, from Battleborn Progress, was the other co-author of the report. She said Cliven Bundy and his supporters fit into the report's definition of extremist.

"The Bundys are not part of my state," she said, "I don't see them as a part of the fabric of our community. They are outliers in our community."

Magnus believes that pointing guns at BLM agents is extreme. She doesn't believe it has anything to do with what side of the political spectrum someone is on, but instead, it is a matter of what would be a "wise or smart thing" to do. 

Parsons and Magnus also say Nevada could be a hotbed for extremist activity, as the the state's population continues to diversify. 

"I think you see especially white males who are intimidated and who feel threatened that their power is being taken away from them, because as minority populations grow in a state like Nevada more and more their voices are going to be heard," Magnus said. 

Sociology professor Pete Simi from Chapman University, who co-wrote a book about the White Power movement in America titled: "American Swastika," told KNPR's State of Nevada that the changing demographics of America has been a hot button issue for many people in the extreme right for along time.

"For instance, 2050 is a big landmark projected time frame when whites will be a minority of sorts," he said, "And a lot of discussion about these issues in terms of demographic shift that really seem to play a major role in motivating folks to want to take action."

Simi said people in the extremist movements he's studied are afraid that "this white American culture has lost ground" and the "Western Civilization is on the verge of extinction."

To be clear, the Bundys have never espoused White Power or white nationalism beliefs. Although during the height of the standoff, Cliven Bundy made several remarks that many people perceived as being racist

 

Guests

Annette Magnus, Center for American Progress; Chelsea Parsons, Center for American Progress; Pete Simi, sociology professor, Chapman University

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