Armed protesters are increasingly intimidating political opponents: NYT
Armed protester / Shutterstock

Firearms are frequently becoming part of political life as Republicans loosen restrictions on carrying guns in public.

"Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s," The New York Times reported Saturday. "But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn."

The newspaper noted armed election deniers in Arizona, homophobic protesters in Idaho, and racist protesters in Tennessee.

"A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to LGBTQ rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald J. Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election," the newspaper reported. "Anti-government militias and right-wing culture warriors like the Proud Boys attended a majority of the protests, the data showed. Violence broke out at more than 100 events and often involved fisticuffs with opposing groups, including left-wing activists such as antifa."

The analysis found the political use of guns skewing heavily towards the Republican Party.

"Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns. Democratic politicians were identified at only two protests taking the same view as those armed," The Times reported. "Sometimes, the Republican officials carried weapons: Robert Sutherland, a Washington state representative, wore a pistol on his hip while protesting Covid-19 restrictions in Olympia in 2020."

Permissive open-carry laws are also welcoming for militia groups.

"Across the country, there is evidence of increasing Republican involvement in militias. A membership list for the Oath Keepers, made public last year, includes 81 elected officials or candidates, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Most of them appear to be Republicans," the newspaper reported. "Another nationwide militia, the American Patriots Three Percent, recently told prospective members that it worked to support 'individuals seeking election to local G.O.P. boards,' according to an archived version of its website."

Read the full report.