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‘Cool for active shooter stuff’

The young man in jeans and sunglasses proudly displays his gun in the YouTube video, then instructs his 1 million subscribers on how to add an extra clip to his gun belt and offers a chilling observation.

“Pretty cool for active shooter stuff when you need extra magazines.”

It’s a typical video, one of thousands teaching civilian gun owners military training and tactics, instructions on silencers and grenade launchers, how to fire from vehicles or inside buildings. Other sites sell ghost gun kits, gas masks, and body armor.

“You shouldn’t be afraid of the NRA. They should be afraid of us,” one online ghost gun dealer tweeted last week.

As Americans reel from repeated mass shootingsLaw enforcement officials and experts on extremism are increasingly aware of the vast online space dedicated to guns and gun rights: gun forums, tactical training videos, websites selling unregistered gun gear, and social media platforms where far-right gun owners share practical tips with the Talk of dark plans to take their weapons.

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It’s an ecosystem full of potential recruits for extremist groups that exploit the often-blurred lines that separate traditional support for a constitutional right from militant anti-government movements that champion racism and violence.

White supremacists have perpetrated most of the deadliest attacks on US soil over the past five years, including a Filming 2018 in a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a Rampage 2019 in which a gunman targeting Hispanics at a Texas Walmart killed 23 people.

The shooter who committed the crime rampage last month in Buffalofor example, in a rambling racist diatribe, claimed he became radicalized when the boredom of a pandemic led him to far-right social media groups and tactical training videos he found online.

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One of the companies named by the shooter sells gun accessories and runs popular social media channels with hundreds of training videos. The videos cover topics such as shooting from cars, attacking a building, using gas masks while shooting, and night vision goggles.

“I think we’re going to see an increase in these types of attacks,” said Kurt Braddock, professor and extremism researcher at American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab. “Until we are able to find a way to deal with this, this type of disinformation will continue to proliferate and with it the risk of increasing radicalization and violence.”

Elected leaders in some states are considering how to address the role of the internet in radicalizing extremists. For example, New York lawmakers recently introduced legislation that requires social media companies to set policies on “hateful behavior” and create mechanisms for users to report troubling posts they may be reading.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James launched an investigation into some of the platforms used by the Buffalo shooter who streamed his attack on Twitch, owned by Amazon. Twitch pulled the live stream after about two minutes.

Federal agencies have also taken note, increasing funding for domestic terrorism investigations, a challenge the FBI director is calling for Christopher Wray was described as “metastatic” last year. But law enforcement can only watch as extremists use the gun control threat to recruit new members.

According to Callum Hood, research director at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a UK-based organization that researches online extremism and abuse, extremists portray any effort to regulate firearms as a prelude to widespread gun seizures.

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“The message quickly becomes, ‘The government is coming to take your guns out and leave you defenseless,'” Hood said. This is despite the obvious political challenges faced by even modest attempts at gun control in the United States. Despite a long and growing list of mass shootings, gun rights in the US have not been significantly restricted in decades.

Instead of being threatened, guns thrive. Since 2000, the year after the Columbine school shooting in Colorado, the number of firearms manufactured in the United States has tripled. There are now an estimated 400 million guns in the US – more than one for everyone in the country – giving the country the highest gun ownership rate in the world.

According to Braddock, gun manufacturers and industry groups like the National Rifle Association bear some responsibility for baseless conspiracy theories about federal plans to confiscate American guns.

“What is the first rule in the art of sales? It is intended to create the need for the subject. We look at guns as something different – and they are because they are instruments of violence – but they are also commodities that are sold in bulk,” Braddock said. “They create the illusion of distress.”

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Contacted by the Associated Press, a website that sold ghost gun kits responded with a statement saying “all questions” about firearms regulation are “naked attempts to disarm traditional Americans, arm the government against them, and use them.” subject to the ignorant and malicious tools of federal power”.

While some of the creators of tactical training videos posted on platforms like YouTube say their target audience is law enforcement, others say their subscriber base is made up mostly of those looking to arm themselves against the government.

Despite their concerns, law enforcement officials and experts on extremism warn that unless they find evidence of illegal arms sales or other crimes, there is little to do about the growing online spaces dedicated to military weapons.

For their part, tech companies and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter say they have rules to ban violent threats, hate speech and other content that constitutes direct harm. Some platforms also ban the sale of firearms.

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Further restrictions on content about guns or even extremism will only backfire anyway, according to militia expert Amy Cooter. While efforts to ban users might be successful in the short term, they will inevitably fail if those users flee to other platforms with less moderation.

“If we want to reduce the size of the movement, de-platforming is really effective,” Cooter said. “But if we want to de-radicalize it, it’s not. The most extreme elements will find other ways to stay connected.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/04/online-pro-gun-extremism-cool-for-active-shooter-stuff/ ‘Cool for active shooter stuff’

Sarah Y. Kim

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