Big stories and hot topics don’t always burst on the scene in a recognized way so we’re all suddenly aware of them. Often, they creep up on us a little at a time and the “watchful” national media look right past ‘em. One such story is moving under our feet at the moment – apparently out-of-sight of that “watchful” bunch. And it scares the Hell out of me.

Two words. “Oath Keepers.” If you haven’t heard of ‘em or don’t know much about ‘em, I strongly advise you do your research and get familiar with this band of armed misfits. Because they’re here – from coast to coast.

If you believe the “official” website, they’re just former military fellas out to have a good time or – more realistically – here to see to it the federal government is kept in its place. By force. The founder has written “The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our federal government.”

“Oath Keepers” was hatched in 2009 in Nevada as a non-profit by one Stewart Rhodes – Yale law grad, former paratrooper and former Ron Paul staffer. One of Rhodes “beliefs” is, if German soldiers and police had refused to follow orders, Hitler could’ve been stopped. Maybe. But think about that. If two groups whose sole purpose at that time was to keep the peace had REFUSED to follow orders, Hitler would have been powerless? Really? Rhodes may have gotten out of Yale law but he sure missed a few classes. Especially one about circular logic. And others on 1930’s history.

Membership is open to active and former military, Guard, police, fire fighters, other first responders, sheriffs and their staffs. In other words, anyone who wears or has worn a uniform. They’re armed to the teeth. Weapons of choice – anything semi or fully automatic. Camo outfits with military boots. Lots of patches signifying anything military. Oath Keepers is flat-out a paramilitary unit. Rhodes calls his various sub-groups “cells.”

Rhodes and his military minions have popped up all over the country recently. A few months ago, they were near Grants Pass, Oregon, to defend a miner who was in violation of several BLM regulations and at least two federal laws. With AK-47’s at the ready, they took up positions between the feds and the miners for a couple of weeks.. The feds blinked and left.

Remember ol’ Clive Bundy – Nevada public lands scofflaw and cattle-grazing welfare queen who still owes you and me over a million bucks? Oath Keepers showed up there. Armed to the teeth. BLM backed down again. Then, they traveled to Montana this month to, again, “defend” a miner near Lincoln who was in violation of federal rules. Again, feds left.

They got to Idaho this month, too. A retired Navy vet up north had been notified by the VA his medical records showed a deteriorating mental condition and he had to surrender a very large collection of guns and other weapons. Up popped Oath Keepers with their automatic firepower to get into the action. Most troubling thing here is the local sheriff sided with the Keepers against the feds. In the end, feds backed away. Seems to have been true in several other cases as well. Paperwork error was the claim.

Now, they’ve turned up in Ferguson, Missouri. To do what? Defend the cops, that’s what. Siding with the St. Louis County Sheriff who didn’t seem to mind the unrequested “assistance.”

So here’s why this group really terrifies me. Seems local law enforcement has been O.K. with these gun nuts in all these instances – and more – because none of them have been arrested or chased back under their rocks by any jurisdiction. If not welcomed with open arms by lawful authority, there’s certainly been a tacit acceptance of these militaristic civilians. Why?

The explosion of people openly carrying guns everywhere is one thing. But why are the feds and local law folk giving these guys a pass? What if one of them fires on a fed – or a crowd – for whatever reason? Who’s liable? Who goes to jail? Does anybody go to jail? What’s the difference between some local citizen with an AR-15 on the scene – who’d normally be chased away or arrested – and these Oath Keeper guys? What about some of their armament? Are private citizens supposed to have fully automatic weapons?

The Southern Poverty Law Center – watcher of all things violent, anti-Semitic and racist in this country – calls Oath Keepers “a fiercely anti-government, militaristic group.” SPLC is seldom wrong.

I’m one of those who believes our government is not responding to our needs and concerns at the moment – that billionaires have squeezed the rest of us from representation and participation – that we need to change direction, tone and a lot of elected personnel in Washington D.C.. But damned if I’ll pick up an AK-47 to prove the point. Oath Keepers should not be allowed that option, either.

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