Commentary: An Unhealthy Backlash to Obama’s Gun Control Ideas

The president’s call has led to a rise in far right groups that call for Americans arming themselves by any means necessary.

Posted: 03/06/2013 04:31 PM EST

The mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as well as he the death by gun violence of Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago have combined to spark – and invigorate – a national debate on gun control laws. In many ways, the dialogue has been welcomed, a sign that some degree of progress is possible.

But there is another side to this tale. It has also fueled the enthusiasm of extremist groups who look at any initiative to control access to guns as an assault on the essential fabric of American life.

A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center makes that point abundantly clear. The number of so-called Patriot groups has skyrocketed, from fewer than 150 in 2008 to an all-time high of 1,360 by the end of 2012. These are groups that spout the theory that the federal government is somehow conspiring to deprive Americans of their guns and that such efforts should be countered by any means necessary.

What is undeniable is the racial undertone to the explosion of such groups, which have flourished since the inauguration of the nation’s first Black president. These groups not only staunchly oppose President Obama’s common sense approach to controlling the sale and access of guns. They also oppose his call for immigration reform, fearing that the America they have come to know and love is slipping away into a more racially diverse nation. For them, it is a horrifying prospect.

“To the surprise of many prognosticators, anti-black racism in America — not just that limited to the far right — actually rose over the four years of Obama’s first term, according to a 2012 Associated Press poll,” the report stated. "The poll found 51 percent of Americans expressed explicitly anti-black attitudes, compared to 48 percent in 2008, while 56 percent showed implicitly anti-black attitudes, up from  49 percent four years earlier.”

The growth of these far right groups is, in reality, spurred by fear. Their members fear that the country they have known is being transformed under their noses into an unrecognizable assortment of racial minorities who are marching boldly to dominate the United States. In fact, they reason, they even elected one of their own to sit in the White House.

The national debate on solutions to gun violence is but one of the issues stirring their fears.

“Even before serious talk of gun control began in Washington, the far right was already in something of a meltdown in the immediate aftermath of Obama’s re-election, which came to many who got their campaign news from right-wing sources as a jarring shock,” the report pointed out, accurately.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans signed petitions seeking the secession of each of the 50 states. Right-wing outfits like TeaParty.org said a 'Communist coup' was under way. The anti-gay Family Research Council charged Obama with ‘dismantling’ the country.”

It is of no concern to members of these groups that a good deal of the gun violence is in communities of color and that gun-control measures might well save Black and brown lives. It also doesn’t matter to them that, far from dominating the country, African-American and Latino citizens are feeling a disproportionate level of joblessness and victimization from the foreclosure crisis.

They are as blind to those conditions as they are to the fact that the president’s approach to gun-control measures is fairly moderate by progressive standards. All they see is a president and a darker America encroaching on their rights, oblivious to the rights of others to simply live in a nation free of the epidemic of gun violence.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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 (Photo:  Dennis Flaherty / Getty Images)

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