.223 Ammo and a Day of Tea Party Rallies
By Leonard Zeskind and Devin Burghart
The diameter of the .223 bullet is about a quarter of an inch. You can find them at gun shows sold in bulk. Hundreds of small pieces of lead stuffed into garbage bag-sized clear plastic containers. These bullets have to be specially weighted for hunting deer. But they are perfectly lethal when used against humans.
As military weaponry, it was first introduced with United States troops in Vietnam in 1963. Posse Comitatus farmer Gordon Kahl used .223 bullets to kill two federal marshals in North Dakota in 1983. And it has been the far-right’s ammunition of choice ever since.
Now Tea Partiers, Birchers and a host of self-described gun enthusiasts are commemorating the bullet with a “Day of Resistance” on 2/23—Saturday, February 23.
The ostensible causes are the executive orders President Obama gave regarding guns; such tyrannical measures as insuring mental health resources are available and providing incentives for schools to hire resource officers. The more proximate causes for these protests, however, have much to do with the dynamics inside the Tea Party movement after the November election. Simply put: the action faction is tired of playing inside Republican Party baseball and wants to get back in the streets.
The February 23 events were initiated by Dustin Stockman. Stockman’s father Roger founded Western Representation PAC in Arizona; and Dustin cut his political teeth speaking for one of the Tea Party Express bus tours. But he is now engaged in this gunapalooza as a staffer for one of the newer Tea Party factions, TheTeaParty.net.
TheTeaParty.net, founded by Arizonan Todd Cefaratti, is largely a list-building money-generating machine. Cefaratti has a background in data harvesting, mining contact information and then reselling the leads to clients in the reverse mortgage industry.
The organization’s parent group, Stop This Insanity, Inc., was founded as a political action committee in Arizona in early 2010 by Cefaratti and Ron Dove, who became TheTeaParty.net’s treasurer and human resources manager. The PAC was terminated in November 2010, while it was in the process of losing a lawsuit with the Federal Election Commission. It also developed a bad reputation with other Tea Party groups after raising money ($469,000 between January and October 2010), and then not funding rallies or candidates.
Instead, a significant amount of the funds, $189,759, went to online marketing.
Formally, TheTeaParty.net is a project of Stop This Insanity, Inc., which they now claim is a 501(c) 4 non-profit organization. The “Stop” corporation was registered as an Arizona non-profit on February 25, 2010. Its DBA “The Tea Party,” however, wasn’t registered until December 20, 2012, according to the Arizona Secretary of State Charitable Organizations System.
It “solicits funds in order to provide every ameridcan[sic] with access to the technology & means to be engaged & civically responsilble[sic] citizens & to empower individuals to take action in their communities to restore our founding principles of individual liberty, limited government & free markets,” according to their filing with the state.
To bolster its organizational identity, TheTeaParty.net sponsored a truck in the NASCAR Truck Racing Series. They were the main sponsor of a Tea Party “Unity Rally” in Tampa during the Republican National Convention in 2012. It also registered as a sponsor for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last year. This year they paid the $50,000 fee to be listed as a “partner” at the CPAC 2013 event next month.
TheTeaParty.net developed a reputation for the large number of emails it sent to Tea Partiers who never signed up for their lists, causing them to publicly wonder who this “net” organization really was. In March 2012, the organization hired Judson Phillips as an associate director, a move regarded by some analysts as an attempt to quell the grumbling.
The founder of Tea Party Nation, Phillips is a well-known personage who maintains a following among a segment of Tea Party activists. IREHR cited his proposal to deny voting rights for those citizens who do not own property and for promoting anti-gay bullying. He is on record defending the now defunct and indefensibly racist National Origins Act of 1924. He even published a piece claiming that "American culture" will soon perish since the "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) population is headed for extinction."
It is not known if Phillips still works for TheTeaParty.net. What is known, however, is that the organization understood the growing anxiety over gun issues expressed by the Tea Party rank and file during its “Gun Appreciation Day,” on January 19; and it has sponsored the main website promoting the February 23 events.
Tea Party "Day of Resistance" Gun Rallies
At latest count, there are groups planning gun events in 103 cities and towns. In many cases they are organizing through Facebook pages, and there are numbers indicating how many persons are invited, how many have already planned to attend and how many may attend. In Bakersfield, California, over 500 have indicated they will attend. In Georgia, three different event sites are noted. There are four in Alabama. In Sevierville, Tennessee, almost 4,000 have been invited, and several hundred plan to attend.
Tea Party "Day of Resistance" Gun Ralllies Scheduled
(List of officially sponsored events from Day of Resistance website, as of 2/19/2013. Attending information obtained from Facebook event pages, 2/19/2013).
On Staten Island, New York, a group has broken away from the established Tea Party organization, charging that it is too embroiled in Republican Party politics and is unwilling to criticize Republican office holders who support gun control measures. They have created a chapter of Tea Party Patriots and plan to hold a February 23 protest outside the offices of Rep. Michael Grimm.
The zeal with which a sector of Tea Partiers approaches the gun rallies is, in part, a rejection of the Republican Party-centric focus of other Tea Parties. After the limited wins and the loss at the presidential level last November, some feel that electioneering has taken them as far as it will go. They want to get back into the streets.
Their eagerness is also reflected in opinion polling on gun issues.
The Tea Party, Guns, and Polls
A September 2010 Pew Research Center poll found that Tea Partiers favored protecting gun rights to controlling gun ownership by a 78% to 18% margin. When all registered voters were asked that question, however, they gave a much smaller advantage to the gun rights view viz gun control, 51% to 45%. And when questions are asked about specific measures, a majority of Americans (63%) support banning high capacity magazines and certain kinds of semi-automatic weapons (52%), according to a January 2013 New York Times / CBS News poll. The same poll shows that views had not measurably changed after the Newtown, Connecticut murders. Further, 55% of Tea Party supporters think you should be allowed to bring concealed weapons to church or a place of worship. By strong contrast, 76% of Americans as a whole believe that people should not be allowed carry concealed guns into a church or place of worship.
Leonard Zeskind is president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. Devin Burghart is IREHR vice president.
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