Daniel Almond, a three-tour veteran of Iraq, is ready to "muster outside D.C." today with several dozen other self-proclaimed patriots, all of them armed. They intend to make history as the first to take their guns to a demonstration in a national park, and the Virginia rally is deliberately being held in sight of the Capitol, just a few miles from the White House.
Almond, 31, plans to have his pistol loaded and openly carried, his rifle unloaded and slung to the rear, a bandoleer of magazines containing ammunition draped over his polo-shirted shoulder. The Atlanta-area real estate agent organized the rally because he is upset about health care, climate control, bank bailouts, drug laws and what he sees as President Obama's insistence on and the Democratic Congress' capitulation to a "totalitarian socialism" that tramples individual rights.
So-called open-carry rallies have been sprouting all across the country. Hundreds gathered in New Mexico, Ohio and Michigan last week, and rallies also are taking place today in Arizona.
Almond, a member of several heretofore little-known groups, including Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Freedom and Oathkeepers, made up of former and active military and law enforcement officials who have vowed to resist laws they deem unconstitutional, considers packing heat on the doorstep of the federal government within the mainstream of political speech.
Others consider it an alarming escalation of paranoia and anger in the age of Obama. "What I think is important to note is that many of the speakers have really threatened violence, and it's a real threat to the rule of law," said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "They are calling health care and taxes that have been duly enacted by a democratically elected Congress tyrannical, and they feel they have a right to confront that individually."
On the lineup are several heroes of the militia movement, including Mike Vanderboegh, who advocated throwing bricks through the windows of Democrats who voted for the health care bill; Tom Fernandez, who has established a nationwide call-tree to mobilize an armed resistance to any government order to seize firearms; and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, who refused to enforce the Brady law and then won a Supreme Court verdict that weakened its background-check provisions.