With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, three major pro-gun Facebook pages are fearmongering about Civil War-type violence from the left after the elections -- despite widespread evidence and reporting from experts that any violence which arises is likely to come from right-wing militias and white nationalist groups.
The Facebook pages The Truth About Guns, Guns Save Lives, and 2nd Amendment all shared articles to fearmonger about a looming threat of post-election violence coming from the left and aimed at supporters of President Donald Trump. The pages collectively have almost 2.5 million followers.
Despite attempts by right-wing and pro-gun media to tie this fear of post-election violence to the Black Lives Matter protests following the police killing of George Floyd, a study of 7,750 of those protests nationwide found that 93% were peaceful.
Another study by the same group, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, and the research group Militia Watch found that five states do face a threat of increased election-related violence, but that it’s from right-wing militia groups.
On October 6, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf released a report saying the threat of violent white supremacy is the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland,” and wrote that he’s “particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years.” This echoes a statement FBI Director Christopher Wray made to Congress in February that “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists” are now the “primary source of ideologically motivated lethal incidents” in the U.S.
The Truth About Guns
On October 22, the Facebook page of pro-gun blog The Truth About Guns shared its own article alleging that the majority of Americans are expecting post-election violence and suggesting steps people can take to protect themselves. Written by John Boch, the article cites a poll from The Independent and JL Partners which found that 73% of Biden supporters and 77% of Trump supporters are worried about election violence.
Boch wrote that he’s not surprised by these numbers given the nationwide “political violence” following the police killing of George Floyd, and he said part of the answer is to know “Antifa” is deploying “guerilla warfare tactics” and using smoke bombs to create a “fog of war.” Boch told his readers that “Antifa mobs can do pretty much anything they want to you and you can’t stop them,” and that if you get taken down in a fight, “They will kick you in the head with their steel toe boots until you’re unconscious or dead.”
The Truth About Guns shared this article on Facebook with the comment “Almost three-quarters of Americans expect violence during or after the election. Are you ready?” Many the commenters on the post either agreed antifa is a problem or stated that they’re prepared for violence.
Guns Save Lives
On October 23, the Facebook page Guns Save Lives shared an American Military News article about four “Trump-supporting households” in Milford and Brookline, New Hampshire, that supposedly received anonymous letters threatening to attack their homes if Trump loses reelection but refuses to concede. The reported text of the letter is the same as that of an unverified viral image.
In sharing the article, Guns Save Lives questioned whether all “Trump supporters need to worry about being attacked.” The post received 507 reactions and 308 comments, many of which threatened that Trump supporters own guns and are ready to respond to any violence.
On October 21, the Facebook page 2nd Amendment — which is the Facebook page for the Salem Media-owned, pro-gun blog Bearing Arms — shared its own article claiming that Americans are bracing “for inevitable post-election violence.” Relying on no specific evidence or reporting, but rather a poll of Americans’ concerns, author Tom Knighton wrote that there is “ample reason to believe” that the aftermath of the election “won’t be particularly” peaceful. The Bearing Arms article is based on a poll conducted by ROKK Solutions, Engagious, and the Sports and Leisure Research Group which found that 61% of respondents said they were concerned about a second Civil War. Knighton took the poll results to mean that if Trump wins, there will be riots in protest and if former Vice President Joe Biden wins, his supporters “will be so smug and self-righteous that they’ll take things too far and then you end up with a riot.”
Bearing Arms shared the article on its Facebook page with the comment “We’re less than two weeks out.” It received over 1,200 reactions and 682 comments, many of which agreed that the left will burn down cities and noted that Trump supporters are “locked and loaded.”