THE .50 CALIBER Bushmaster bolt action rifle is a
serious weapon. The model that Pvt. 1st Class Lee Pray is saving up for
has a 2,500-yard range and comes with a Mark IV scope and an easy-load
magazine. When the 25-year-old drove me to a mall in Watertown, New
York, near the Fort Drum Army base, he brought me to see it in its
glass case—he visits it periodically, like a kid coveting something at
the toy store. It'll take plenty of military paychecks to cover the
$5,600 price tag, but he considers the Bushmaster essential in his
preparations to take on the US government when it declares martial law.
His belief that that day is imminent has led Pray to a group called Oath Keepers
one of the fastest-growing "patriot" organizations on the right.
Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart
Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling
anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers.
Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and
in December, a grassroots summit
it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey
and Paul Broun
, both Georgia Republicans.
There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers
unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in
uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular
ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of
service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step
further, vowing to disobey "unconstitutional" orders from what they
view as an increasingly tyrannical government.