What’s the biggest terrorist threat to the U.S.? Hamas? Al Qaeda? The Taliban? The Irish Republican Army? The Tea Party? Islam? Christianity? The KKK? Nope. The answer is: None of the above. Law enforcement now calls the Sovereign Citizen movement the biggest terrorist threat to the U.S.
According to a new study from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), many groups considered terrorists saw their threat rating decline in terms of how law enforcement sees them. The Sovereign Citizen movement is now the top-ranked threat, the study says, with 86% of respondents agreeing that they’re a serious threat.
Sovereign citizens have been around for a long time, in varying forms. Basically, these people think that only their interpretation of the law matters. They have a very limited understanding of how laws actually work, and also seem to think that “freedom” means “free from any legal constraints,” according to The Daily Reporter.
We have laws for a reason, including keeping people from hurting other people. A large society like ours doesn’t function without laws, and punishments for violating those laws, that apply to everyone. They can’t apply only when you agree they apply.
An in-depth look at the Sovereign Citizen movement on CBS News says that there could be as many as 300,000 people who could claim they were sovereign citizens in 2012. They look at one particular man named Jerry Kane, who became a sovereign citizen after he lost his house to foreclosure over 10 years ago.
He’s been arrested for driving without a license, for driving a car registered to a fake charity, and each arrest leads to more anger against authority. He tried to make a living with a debt reduction scam, but his seminars weren’t working. At one seminar, he said:
“I don’t want to have to kill anybody. But if they keep messing with me, that’s what it’s going to have to come out, that’s what it’s going to come down to is I’m gonna have to kill. And if I have to kill one, then I’m not going to be able to stop.”
Kane ended up killing one police officer at a traffic stop, and wounding two more before he himself was killed in what amounted to a shootout in a Walmart parking lot.
Sovereign citizens are willing to die for their beliefs, like the terrorists we revile in the Middle East. We tend to be unable to imagine anything like that here. But we have it here, it’s just in a different form. If they’re willing to die for their beliefs, they’re often also willing to kill for their beliefs, just like Kane.
According to the CBS News article, these people also have a twisted view of history. They believe that limited government literally meant that people were free from legal constraints, and they want to go back to that. Back to the time when, in their view, people could do what they wanted, when they wanted, without fear of repercussions.
Judges and police officers worry about their lives and their livelihoods, because, when sovereign citizens have run-ins with the law, they tend to want revenge. Oftentimes, revenge comes in the form of filing liens against these people, which can ruin their credit. But some also look to kill the officers and judges who’ve messed with their sovereignty.
As one “leader” of the movement said, according to CBS:
“We do not have the right to keep and bear arms so we can go duck hunting. We have the right to keep and bear arms in order to shoot our own politicians.
I’m simply saying, one of the ways you prevent the misconstruction or abuse of the powers of the constitution is by letting the people in Washington understand that you are armed. That’s the idea behind this. It’s saying, ‘Look, we’re armed. down here, don’t mess with us.'”
He went on to say that “the threat of violence is required because [the government] will not listen.”
Is it any wonder that these people are considered to be a huge terrorist threat? They’re trying to use fear, terror, to gain a legal and political advantage. That’s the definition of terrorism, and there are more of them now than there are members of actual terrorist organizations here in the U.S.