gun show
Do you feel radicalized yet? (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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The Atlanta Gun Show, held over a weekend in late September, had everything one might need for a coming apocalypse or civil war: flame throwers, hundreds of rifles, thousands of handguns and knives, body armor, survival kits, medical supplies.

Sprinkled among swords, boxes of sutures and night-vision goggles were the insignia of the modern extremist far-right: bright yellow patches for the Oath Keepers militia group, holsters and clothing engraved with the logo of the extremist Three Percenters. A stall at the back sold paperback copies of “The Anarchist Cookbook,” which describes how to make homemade bombs, along with a book called “Two Component High Explosive Mixtures…”

Gun shows like this have long been part of the connective tissue between mainstream conservatism and the American extremist movement. The vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens, but experts and former members of the extremist far-right said a passion for gun rights often serves as a gateway to radicalization – one eagerly exploited by recruiters and leaders in the movement.

“It is one of those things that far-right activists will use to get in the door,” said Jeff Schoep. He was once the leader of the National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi organization in the United States; now he advocates for leaving the life. “Just like illegal immigration, guns – the gun rights issue – all of these things are gateways that can be utilized…”

– Will Carless in Down the barrel of a gun: How Second Amendment activism can be a gateway to extremist ideologies

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