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Ahead of January 6: Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League Hosted Press Call to Talk About State of Armed Extremism One Year Since Capitol Insurrection

January 6, 2022

Everytown for Gun Safety has Been Ringing the Bell on the the Threat of Armed Extremism for Years

Since 2020, Researchers Have Put out Research on the Connections between the Gun Lobby and Extremism, the Jan 6 Insurrection, and Armed Demonstrations 

Everytown For Gun Safety Also Released New Data on Armed Demonstrations and Recommendations For Lawmakers to Address Armed Extremism

NEW YORK  —  Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, hosted a press conference call today with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League to discuss the state of armed extremism in the one year since the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. The speakers also discussed what their organizations are doing to address armed extremism and the importance of prioritizing this public health crisis. If you are interested in getting the recording from the press call, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

“The deadly violence that unfolded at the Capitol last year was shocking, brazen and reprehensible,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “It represented an all-out assault on our democracy by people determined to impose their will on others through violence, intimidation and destruction. It was also an example of the way that guns have acted as a unifying force among far right extremists — and what can happen when they’re encouraged to act on dangerous conspiracy theories and outright lies fueled by lawmakers and the former president himself.”

“Guns are a recruiting tool and an organizing principle for many extremist groups, especially for groups like the Oath Keepers and other anti-government militias that were present at the Capitol Insurrection,” said Justin Wagner, Senior Investigations Director at Everytown for Gun Safety. “January 6 is a solemn day for the majority of America. A day to remember a ‘near miss’ to our democracy. But a look at the current landscape indicates there’s another group of Americans – driven by right-wing activations – that view that day as one where the insurrectionists didn’t go far enough. We must start to prioritize armed extremism.”

“Our organization has realized that it’s not sufficient for us to be just tracking and exposing the hate and extremism,” said Susan Corke, Director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We also need to be working further upstream to understand radicalization pathways, and try to prevent the problem before it becomes a full blown crisis where there is violence and hate crimes.”

“Let me be clear: extremism and firearms are inextricably linked,” said Oren Segal, Vice President at the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League. “Where extremists go violence, and in particular gun violence, is not far behind. That’s one of the reasons why a year after the Insurrection at the Capitol, we must understand the changing landscape of domestic extremism.”

In August, Everytown for Gun Safety, in partnership with the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), released a new report documenting over 610 armed demonstrations that have taken place across the United States since the start of 2020. Today, updated data was released showing:

  • Pro-Trump Demonstrations Continue Post-Presidency and Are More Likely to Be Armed: Pro-Trump demonstrations were reported every month since the start of 2021. These demonstrations were disproportionately armed. 
  • Armed Pro-Trump Demonstrations Disproportionately Occur on Legislative Grounds. Between January 2020 and November 2021, 47.3% of armed pro-Trump demonstrations (53 of 112) took place at legislative grounds, compared to 12.2% of all other armed demonstrations (61 of 501).
  • Overall, Armed Demonstrations Were More Likely To Take Place At Legislative Grounds in 2021 Compared to 2020, and These Demonstrations Were More Likely To Be Violent or Destructive: While armed demonstrations at legislative grounds represent a subset of all armed demonstrations, events like the January 6 insurrection underscore the dangers of armed activity at these locations. 
  • Armed Demonstrations Continue to Be Driven by Right-Wing Actors, and These Actors Were Even More Likely to Be Involved in 2021: Members of right-wing groups were identified in at least 45.8% of all armed demonstrations in 2021 (60 of 131), up from over 35.7% in 2020. Overall, the top three named actors present at armed demonstrations since 2020 are the Boogaloo Boys and their affiliates, the Three Percenters and their associated groups, and the Proud Boys.

Armed extremism didn’t start with the insurrection at the Capitol, but the event itself was the result of the conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric circulated by extremists and validated by some of our own lawmakers. Now, a year later, many of those same dangerous circumstances remain as the country enters yet another contentious election cycle. Armed extremism is an imminent threat — and it’s time for our country to take it seriously. Every western democracy has extremists, the difference in the United States is that the extremists have easy access to guns. 

Without the strong gun laws in Washington D.C., the Capitol insurrection could have been worse and more deadly. It’s critical that states that allow permitless or open carry or do not require a background check on all gun sales strengthen their laws to prevent armed extremism. Lawmakers at all levels should prioritize addressing armed extremism as they go into a new legislative session in 2022. Additional recommendations for lawmakers to address armed demonstrations are available here

If you are interested in receiving the recording of the press call or to speak to one of our experts about armed extremism, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you're a member of the media, please send inquiries to [email protected]