If you’re at all familiar with Second Amendment lobbyists and interest groups, you understand the general revolutionary panache in which the movement drapes itself: frequent appeals to the Constitution; incessant and undefined use of the word “liberty;” insistence on the lasting significance of arms in all societies.
The mystique of any pro-gun argument originates in this logic, tortuous rhetoric defending civil liberties and “rights” while remaining, on the whole, socially conservative. It’s a pretty complicated argument, and you’d need a crash course in this logic of tradition in order to fully understand it. Luckily, class is in session.
Enter the Appleseed Project. Operated by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, it’s described as a “501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to teaching every American our shared heritage and history as well as traditional rifle marksmanship skills.”
But that doesn’t really sum it up. The Appleseed Project is not merely a class—everything you learn is taught in intensive two day or week long blocks, with about eight hours of instruction each day. It’s more like a living experience of the historical patriot, in which one subsumes the identity of a Revolutionary War soldier.
Clearly, this is an alluring concept for the stolid defenders of the Second Amendment. The Appleseed Project doesn’t simply equate guns to the United States’ heritage; it proposes an inescapable identity in U.S. citizens as “progeny” of the revolution—an identity that necessitates the potential use of violence.
Hence, SWAT Magazine published a deluge of praise for the group’s successes in “turning America back into a nation of riflemen,” while popular small arms technician and pedagogue Massad Ayoob extols the program‘s teaching potential, in addition to its “humanistic” portrayal of the revolutionary’s struggle.
The Appleseed Project has made its business the dissemination of an ideology, and that ideology certainly falls right of center. That being said, it still maintains the general framework of mainstream conservatism, wherein it renounces outwardly exclusionary policies. The group’s website puts it in very frank, even if a little flagrant, terms:
We also recognize the racist origins of the gun control movement and take special pride in welcoming those who have suffered unjustly in that regard, as well as encouraging women to learn to shoot by making their participation, and that of children, free.
Indeed, they want no misunderstandings in this regard—so much so that they resort to attacking their opponents as the actual enemies of civil rights.
But it seems a bit disingenuous to simply rely on this disclaimer. Though the Appleseed Project does its best to include everyone, its highly specialized curriculum seems apt to attract the margins of the political right, offering them the opportunity to work within the aegis of a fairly mainstream idea. The most acrid example of this incongruity is the white nationalist community at stormfront.org promoting the program to such an extent that the site maintains a permanent thread on it. Despite the fact that members are careful to mention that the Appleseed Project itself does not tolerate their ideas, they still encourage their fellows to attend. They explain that there is always the chance of meeting like-minded people or others easily converted to their cause, and that, despite Appleseed’s efforts, almost every participant at these shoots is white.
It becomes clear that Appleseed Project’s message is compatible with some more extreme characters in the political arena. Though they may not intend it, by affixing a combatant in all citizens, the program will naturally draw these fringe figures into their ranks—and perhaps lose some of their ranks to these figures. The unswerving identity of the patriot very quickly becomes the relentless identity of the nationalist; when doling out a militant ideology, it seems that one might get a few more adherents than originally welcomed.