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Washington Post: Gun Extremists Fuel Reckless Anti-Social Distancing Protests

April 20, 2020

Gun extremist brothers, Ben, Aaron, and Chris Dorr spreading fear and misinformation on COVID-19, fueling protests to drive membership and donations 

Protesters ignoring public health guidelines endanger community, essential workers, frontline hospital workers and could contribute to the spread of the virus

Over the weekend, protests were held at statehouses in multiple states in supposed opposition to the stay-at-home orders governors have put in place to protect public health and stop the spread of COVID-19. According to the Washington Post, gun extremist brothers, Ben, Aaron, and Chris Dorr are “behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests around the country,” including in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New York.

“A trio of far-right, pro-gun provocateurs is behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests around the country, offering the latest illustration that some seemingly organic demonstrations are being engineered by a network of conservative activists.”

The Dorr brothers lead several gun lobby groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa and Minnesota to New York, which describe themselves as “no-compromise.”

The brothers appear to be capitalizing on the public health crisis to drive membership and donations to their gun rights groups. The Post reports that the Dorrs “seek to steer visitors to a website for the ‘Wisconsin Firearms Coalition’” and “encourage visitors who are not ‘already a member of the Wisconsin Firearms Coalition’ to ‘join us.’ A page asking users to join the Minnesota group offered several rates for membership, from $35 to $1,000.”

Protests have also been held in Minnesota, Colorado, and Idaho. At a protest in Michigan, gun extremists showed up with guns and Confederate flags and blocked the entrance to the nearby hospital. In many cases, protesters have ignored public health guidance on staying six feet apart and wearing masks in public spaces. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer reportedly “said the protesters might have just made the situation worse” by adding to the spread of the virus that has already killed more than 40,000 people in the United States. 

The protests may create the illusion that there is a large contingency of people who oppose the stay-at-home orders but much like with gun safety, the Dorr brothers are in the minority. The same way the vast majority of Americans support common-sense gun safety measures, the vast majority support stay-at home orders designed to protect public health. As the Washington Post notes, “Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they supported a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats backed such a measure in the survey.”

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