Susan Walsh / AP
Thursday, June 17, 2010 | 2 a.m.
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There’s no doubt a chunk of the electorate is angry at the federal government. But are voters willing to take up arms?
U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle seemed to raise that specter in three interviews in the past six months, suggesting that some would seek “Second Amendment remedies” if Congress isn’t reined in.
She said the purpose of the right to bear arms is to check the federal government. But she stopped short of saying that she would support an armed uprising.
“Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government,” Angle told conservative talk show host Lars Larson in January. “In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”
Also that month, she told Reno conservative talk show host Bill Manders she hoped her opponent, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, would be defeated at the ballot box before the electorate resorted to more aggressive measures.
“I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies,” Angle said. “I hope that the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.”
And last month she told the Reno Gazette-Journal “it’s almost an imperative” that conservatives win.
“The nation is arming,” she told the newspaper. “What are they arming for if it isn’t that they are so distrustful of their government? They’re afraid they’ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways. That’s why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don’t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?”
Is she simply tapping into an intense mistrust of the federal government? Or is she advocating something?
Fred Lokken, a political scientist at Truckee Meadows Community College, said Angle has an obligation to explain what she means.
“She needs to assure us she’s not advocating violence against our sitting government or those serving in the sitting government,” he said.
Reid spokesman Jon Summers said, “Her rhetoric that if she doesn’t win at the ballot box people should go to the bullet box undermines the Democratic process.
“We know people are upset,” he added. “Clearly the economy isn’t where it needs to be. The unemployment situation, the foreclosure situation, are not good. Sen. Reid is doing everything he can to turn it around.”
Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy stressed Wednesday that Angle is not “advocating for a revolution.” But he didn’t back away from Angle’s comments that trouble could be brewing.
“We should all be worried, but again, she’s not advocating or suggesting a revolution,” Stacy said.
In the Gazette-Journal interview, Angle said she prefers to fight at the ballot box.
“That’s why I’m in the battle the way I’m in the battle,” she said. “I still have a great deal of faith in our political system and a great deal of faith in the American people and voter.”
The armed revolt sentiment doesn’t belong to Angle alone.
Rick Barber, a candidate in a Republican congressional runoff in Alabama, is airing an ad in which he appears to conspire with 18th-century revolutionaries to stage an armed revolt.
John Chachas, who lost to Angle in the primary, said it’s not necessarily an ill-advised campaign message, especially to her base. Although he is a self-described gun owner who “likes to kill things,” Chachas said he was surprised by how intense the gun rights issue became on the campaign trail.
“It speaks volumes, it seems to me, to how imposed upon people in rural America feel by these things passed on a national level,” he said. “It really has them up in arms. It has them really unhappy.
“You sort of see it on TV and might think, ‘Oh, that’s just Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann on one end and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck on the other,’ and convince yourself with some ease that it’s a figment of media creation. It is not. It’s deeply felt.”
Bob List, a Republican national committeeman and former Nevada governor, wouldn’t speculate on the meaning of Angle’s comments. But, he said, “people are far more riled up about what’s going on out there than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.
He said he doesn’t think an armed revolution is coming.
“What will happen is people will go to the ballot box and vote out the incumbents who are doing this,” he said.
Larson, host of a nationally syndicated talk radio show, said he agreed with Angle’s sentiment that the purpose of the Second Amendment is a check on the federal government.
“That doesn’t mean she was advocating war if she loses,” Larson said. “She was saying at some point, the purpose of the Second Amendment wasn’t first for hunting, or personal protection. It was to make sure government never got out of control.”
Still, the comments may be extreme for the typical general election voter, even in Nevada, which has an overwhelming political culture of support for Second Amendment rights.
Lokken pointed to himself. He said he is registering as a nonpartisan voter.
“This is not the Republican Party I signed up for,” he said.