Extreme-right views are finding a place in politics OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING

April 29, 1995|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,Sun Staff Writer

In Montana earlier this year, a legislator introduced a bill urging all citizens to "own, possess and maintain firearms and ammunition suitable for service in the militia."

In Florida, the Santa Rosa County Commission last year recognized the militia as a way to protect citizens' rights.

In Nevada, a Nye County commissioner bulldozed open a road on federal land and helped enact a law to jail and fine federal agents who violate citizen rights.

It's not just men in camouflage espousing the anti-government sentiments that have been widely publicized since an explosion ripped through an Oklahoma City federal building April 19.

Those views can be heard in town halls, in some statehouses and even a few congressional offices as the public's frustration with government intensifies. Attitudes once held by the extreme right are finding a place in the political debate.

What concerns militia watchers and observers of right-wing groups is the extent to which elected officials can give legitimacy to these groups.

"The militia and other right-wing organizations are thought of as being on the fringes and not having an impact on our daily lives. But in fact there is evidence that the right wing and particularly militias have influence in the public policy arena through elected officials," said Tarso Ramos, of the Western States Center in Portland, Ore., which has monitored these groups in the West.

Rep. Steve Stockman, a freshman Republican congressman from Texas, had a spotlight thrown on him last week when he confirmed that he received a fax mentioning the Oklahoma City bombing on the day of the explosion.

The fax was sent from an associate of a militia supporter in Michigan. A spokesman said Mr. Stockman has no ties to any of these groups.

"There are things within the militias that we would certainly agree with and there are things in the militia [movement] we would not agree with," said Jeff Fisher, the congressman's chief of staff.

"We are adamantly opposed to violence. Do we believe people have a fundamental right to bear arms? Yes, we do."

Other public officials share those same views, whether it's pro-gun or anti-federal government.

Sheriff Richard I. Mack, of Graham County, Arizona, has sued the federal government over enactment of the Brady Bill, the law requiring a waiting period for the purchase of a gun.

"I don't work for them so how can they tell me what to do?" he said. "What we need to do as Americans is protect our God given rights."

Harry Martin of Napa City, Calif., the publisher of a weekly newspaper, has written on the alleged government conspiracy to create a "new world" order, the erosion of constitutional rights and other issues raised by militia and Patriot Movement groups that believe in a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

"Then we have the IRS, the Bureau of Land Management and zTC HUD [Housing and Urban Development] making regulations and laws, not Congress," said Mr. Martin, 56, a city councilman. "When a bureaucratic system begins to make a law, and not the Congress, who are they responsible to?"

Montana State Rep. Matt Brainard, a Republican from Missoula, said he introduced a bill calling for arming citizens to ensure that they had the appropriate weapons should the governor call up the unorganized militia in an emergency.

"Modern sporting arms are not suitable for field use. The mechanisms are too delicate," said the gunsmith, who noted that the Montana Constitution provides for such a citizen militia.

Mr. Brainard, whose bill died in committee, said the measure had nothing to do with the militia groups so much in the news today.

But a staff member of the Montana Human Rights Network didn't see it that way.

"There certainly is no urgency on the part of the Montana governor to

see that the citizens are armed," said Christine Kaufman, a legislative analyst for the network, which monitors militia groups in that state.

"The fact remains the people who testified in support of his bill were members of the militia. Whether [Mr. Brainard] intended or not, he provided a rallying point, provided publicity for this movement and he gave it legitimacy in the government process."

Dan Levitas, an Atlanta-based researcher and writer who has studied right-wing groups, said the election of sympathetic or like-minded politicians "is part of a trend of the mainstreaming of the radical right."

"The radical right has set out to promote its agenda in the electoral and political arena and they understand in order to do that they have to elect people to public office," said Mr. Levitas. "Granted, these people are little more polished. They seem a little more respectable. But the agenda is essentially the same."

Mr. Levitas cites the example of Don Rogers, a Republican state senator in California who has addressed Christian Identity conventions. Members of the Christian Identity movement believe that only whites of Northern European heritage are the true Israelites.

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