In a conference call with reporters, Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC, said the showdown in Nevada was part of a larger issue involving anti-government groups. “This battle over land use and the use of public lands did not come out of nowhere,” Potok said. Rather, it followed a surge in anti-government groups the SPLC said it has identified in recent years.
The report also brings up Jerad and Amanda Miller, who had expressed anti-government views before shooting and killing two police officers and a bystander in Las Vegas. They had spent time at the Bundy ranch during the standoff, but Cliven Bundy’s son told the Associated Press that they were asked to leave because of their conduct, calling the couple “very radical.”
Authorities investigating the Las Vegas shooting have said they are not linking it to the Bundy ranch visit. But the bloodshed highlighted a different issue: That of the threat posed by what the Department of Homeland Security calls “domestic extremists.” The SPLC has said it has seen a “stunning” rise in the number of groups that believe they need to be prepared to fight back against a federal government they view as having dangerously overstepped its authority.
Officials and experts who spoke with The Washington Post in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings said that while many of these groups spout hatred, most of them never turn to violence or do anything illegal.
Still, when people with such beliefs do become violent, experts say people in law enforcement are at risk because they are highly visible and can be viewed as representative of government, as Jim Johnson, the Baltimore County police chief and chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, said after the Las Vegas violence.
Last year, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, warned in a report that when people who believe the federal government is their enemy turn violent, they “direct most [of] their violence against the federal government and its proxies in law enforcement.”