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Local anti-government groups on the rise in Arizona

PHOENIX — The Southern Poverty Law Center said Arizona is now home to 18 local anti-government groups, but Bill Straus with the Anti-Defamation League said he believes that’s a conservative estimate.

“Trying to put a count on them is like trying to count rabbits. The level of anti-government sentiment is spiking again.”

Straus said anger over the economy, possible gun control and a deep dislike of the president make some members of these groups very dangerous.

“Among these groups there’s a specific genre of sovereign citizens that don’t believe any of our laws are legal,” he said.

The militia movement in Arizona gained steam in the 1990s until the Oklahoma City bombing, carried out by Timothy McVeigh who was living in Kingman prior to the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history: 168 people died including 19 children.

“That act brought a rapid and tremendous decrease of these anti-government groups afterward,” said Straus.

The SPLC said the number of anti-government groups is at an all-time high nationally. There are 1,360 of these organizations in nationwide, compared with just 149 in 2008.