By Lee Williams
USA Today’s “extremism” reporter Will Carless has extremists on the brain. He’s written about extremist cops, extremist podcasts, extremist militia groups, extremist videos, extremist Facebook groups and now, extremist gun show recruiters.
Before he joined Gannett’s flagship newspaper about a year ago, Carless was the extremist guy at the Center for Investigative reporting (CIR), a small nonprofit located in the San Francisco Bay area. While you may have never heard of CIR, but you’ve probably heard of their donors.
They include George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, The Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, which donates millions to left-of-center advocacy orgs, and other similarly aligned groups. Carless’s work has also appeared in The Trace, the propaganda arm of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun empire.
Carless’ latest USA Today story, “Down the barrel of a gun: How Second Amendment activism can be a gateway to extremist ideologies,” is, in a word, extreme.
The logic he uses to support his story is simple…incredibly flawed, but simple. Since there are vendors at gun shows hawking Nazi paraphernalia, III% patches, and controversial books, Carless would have you believe they’re recruiting for the right-wing extremist movement. And anyone who supports gun rights is ripe for their recruitment.
Carless hatched this crazy theory after actually visiting a gun show.
My latest looks at how extremists have used #SecondAmendment activism and gun rights pressure to recruit new members:
— Will Carless (@willcarless) December 29, 2021
“Gun shows like this have long been part of the connective tissue between mainstream conservatism and the American extremist movement,” Carless wrote. “The vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens, but experts and former members of the extremist far-right said a passion for gun rights often serves as a gateway to radicalization – one eagerly exploited by recruiters and leaders in the movement.”
In other words, if you support our God-given right to self-defense as codified in the Second Amendment, expect to be sporting a swastika armband and goosestepping to SS marching songs by the end of the day.
Carless cites authorities like Igor Volsky, executive director of Guns Down America, as his primary expert. “Gun culture and gun rhetoric is, itself, bathed – saturated – in extremist conspiracy theories,” Volsky is quoted as saying in the story. “What all of these conspiracy theories have in common, what this rhetoric really emphasizes, is the fear that a powerful government is going to come in and disarm you and impose their values onto you.”
9/ In 2020, we saw a huge display of right-wing extremism all across the country.
They showed up with guns to intimidate lawmakers into prematurely lifting quarantine restrictions. They showed up with firearms to intimidate Black and Brown Americans protesting racial injustice
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) January 7, 2021
Given the current administration’s policies, I’m not sure I’d dismiss the fear that a powerful government is going to disarm me as a conspiracy theory. That’s Joe Biden’s stated goal. It’s still right there on his campaign website for all to see: “assault weapon” bans, confiscation under the guise of mandatory buy-backs, regulation by the NFA, standard-capacity magazine bans, one-gun-per-month rationing, and the closing of so-called loopholes.
The White House now acknowledges that they believe the most severe threat from domestic terrorist comes from the far right, Carless points out.
“What do you expect the Biden White House to say?” asked Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “They are the far left that, as Biden himself has said, wants to ban 9mm handguns and semi-auto rifles.”
The rest of Carless’ story describes his one-man sojourn through the gun show aisles. His reportage is like a trip back through time – to the mid-1990s to be precise.
Found this display of Nazi memorabilia at the Houston gun show. Sales guy said demand has surged in the last couple of years. pic.twitter.com/8vexx04N6v
— Edward Luce (@EdwardGLuce) February 23, 2019
He dredges up The Anarchist Cookbook and The Turner Diaries, which some vendor evidently still had in print. The former, Carless said, “describes how to make homemade bombs.” Yes, it certainly does, but there are far more worrisome plans and racist books available on the internet, all of which are still protected by the First Amendment, at least for now.
“Nestled in the middle of the show at the Atlanta Expo Center, a man proudly displayed Nazi memorabilia: medals, swastika patches and a model of a German amphibious vehicle occupied by toy Nazi soldiers. People crowded around his table, asking questions about buying and selling Nazi stuff,” he wrote.
I’ve seen a few gun-show vendors selling Nazi memorabilia, but I’ve never seen a crowd at their tables. Most people, myself included, just walk on by.
Almost no one at the gun show was willing to talk to Carless, which is not a surprise. He spoke to a few people but they refused to give him their names. That was probably for the best.
He’s biased, just like all the rest of the legacy media, and his entire premise was wrong. Are there extremists who own guns? Sure, nearly half the country owns guns so there are bound to be a few.
But implying that the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners are somehow likely to fall under their spell is pure fabrication. It’s fake news. And it’s about what I’d expect to see from USA Today, given their ongoing partnership with The Trace and the extreme leftwing politics of those in charge.
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.