What is the problem?
The U.S. faces a confluence of dangerous challenges from white supremacists, anti-government militias, and other armed groups and individuals of the extreme right that seek to perpetrate violence, spread conspiracies, traffic in hate speech, and engage in armed intimidation. Guns and gun rights are central to many extreme-right groups and individuals.
There has been an increase in counterprotesters and militia members carrying guns openly at protests. In addition, the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January 2021 and several other arrests of extremists in the past year underscore the violent threat posed by armed extremism. These individuals and groups are often motivated by conspiracy theories, violent rhetoric, and hate. Failure to address this threat will lead to the continued growth of extremist groups and violent incidents.
For decades, the gun lobby has not only enabled access to guns by anti-government and white supremacist extremists through its advocacy against common-sense gun laws, but has also worked to harness their fixation on guns to shore up its own political power; in doing so, the gun lobby has amplified extreme right politics to new and broader audiences.
What are the solutions?
Alert Local Law Enforcement of Failed Background Checks
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) stops thousands of convicted felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited people from buying guns each year. Potential purchasers often fail NICS background checks and walk away with no consequences, free to try to arm themselves in other ways.
Background Checks on All Gun Sales
Background checks are the foundation of any comprehensive gun violence prevention strategy. Current federal law requires that background checks be conducted whenever a person attempts to buy a gun from a licensed gun dealer. This is to ensure that the buyer is not legally prohibited from having the gun.
Guns and hate are a fatal combination. In an average year, more than 10,300 hate crimes in the United States involve a firearm—more than 28 each day. In most of the US, some people convicted of hate crimes can still legally buy and have guns. Congress and state legislatures should pass laws that keep guns out of the hands of those who have been convicted of hate crimes.
Extreme Risk Laws
When a person is in crisis and considering harming themselves or others, family members and law enforcement are often the first people to see the warning signs. Extreme Risk laws, sometimes referred to as “Red Flag” laws, allow loved ones or law enforcement to intervene by petitioning a court for an order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns.
Prohibit People With Dangerous Histories From Having Guns
People with dangerous histories should be prohibited from having guns. Federal law prohibits gun possession by certain categories of people. States also set standards for who is too dangerous to have guns. People prohibited by federal or state law will fail a background check if they try to buy a gun from a licensed dealer.
Prohibit Open Carry
Carrying firearms visibly in public, known as open carry, is a dangerous policy. It is exploited by white supremacists and opposed by law enforcement and the public. Members of hate groups regularly openly carry guns in a show of intimidation.
Prohibit Assault Weapons
Assault weapons are exceptionally deadly firearms commonplace in mass shootings. They are generally capable of firing far more bullets, far faster than manual-action hunting rifles. Prohibiting assault weapons can prevent mass shooting injuries and deaths.
Prohibit High-Capacity Magazines
Firearms equipped with high-capacity magazines make instances of violence exceptionally deadly. High-capacity ammunition magazines, commonly defined as those capable of holding more than 10-rounds, are a threat to public safety and should be prohibited.
Strong Standards for Carrying Concealed Guns in Public
Carrying guns in public is a tremendous responsibility. States should set strong minimum standards for carrying concealed guns in public to ensure that people who are too dangerous or irresponsible to carry guns in our communities are blocked from doing so.
Require Permits to Carry Concealed Guns in Public
It is legal to carry a concealed handgun in public in all 50 states. States have traditionally required a person to have a permit to carry a loaded, concealed handgun in public. States should not allow the carry of concealed guns in public without one.
Armed Assembly: Guns, Demonstrations, and Political Violence in America
Armed demonstrations are nearly six times as likely to turn violent or destructive compared to unarmed demonstrations.
More Than Brawlers: The Proud Boys and Armed Extremism
Many far-right groups, including the Proud Boys, use fearmongering and conspiracy theories in an attempt to stop any reform of gun laws.
The Role of Guns & Armed Extremism in the Attack on the U.S. Capitol
The attack on the U.S. Capitol is the latest demonstration of the danger armed extremism poses to our democracy.
Armed and Dangerous: How the Gun Lobby Enshrines Guns as Tools of the Extreme Right
For decades, the gun lobby has enabled extremists to access guns through its opposition of common sense gun laws.
Armed Extremism Primer: Oath Keepers
The Oath Keepers organize around conspiracy theories and propaganda about the reasonable regulation of firearms.Fact Sheet
Armed Extremism in Buffalo: Online Gun Communities Provide a Path of Radicalization and Training to a Racist Shooter
The Buffalo, NY mass shooting in May 2022 at Tops Friendly Market was an act of white supremacist, hate-motivated violence.Report
Misogyny, Extremism, and Gun Violence
The impact of violent misogyny, combined with the unique harm of violence involving guns, makes addressing it an urgent issue.Report
Armed Extremism Primer: Sovereign Citizens
Sovereign citizens fall under the umbrella of the wider right-wing anti-government extremist movement, which can include fixation on guns.Fact Sheet
Armed Extremism Primer: The Boogaloo
The boogaloo movement has risen to national prominence as a new and dangerous subset of the extreme right in the United States.Fact Sheet
Armed COVID-19 Protests Exploit Open Carry Loophole
Lawmakers should close the open carry loophole and regulate open carry, particularly at demonstrations held on capitol grounds.Fact Sheet