The number of active domestic extremist groups reached an all-time high last year and is likely to keep growing as President Obama and Congress begin to tackle the highly contentious issues of immigration and gun control, according to a new report.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday, the SPLC’s president warned that if anti-government groups continue to grow unchecked by law enforcement forces, there is an increased chance that they could successfully carry out a domestic terrorist attack similar to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994.
“Because of the looming dangers, we urge you to establish an interagency task force to assess the adequacy of the resources devoted to responding to the growing threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism,” the SPLC wrote to Holder and Napolitano.
The report also found that the number of anti-government and radical militia groups increased in the wake of the 1994 gun-control legislation, tightening firearm ownership regulations and instituting a 10-year ban on assault weapons.
With Democrats and Obama pushing for more stringent gun regulations following the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last year, the group said it was worried about a violent backlash from radical groups.
The SPLC cited several instances of rising threats to government officials, including an incident earlier this year when self-proclaimed white supremacist Craig Cobb posted Rep. Diana DeGette’s (D-Colo.) home address in Denver on a web forum after she introduced a bill banning the future sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The new report from the SPLC — entitled “The Year in Hate and Extremism” — found that the number of hate groups in the United States decreased slightly from 1,018 groups in 2011 to 1,007 groups in 2012.
Hate groups grew exponentially over the last decade, in part, because of the increasing Hispanic population immigrating into the country, according to the SPLC’s findings.
And as Congress begins to tackle immigration-reform legislation, the report predicted that strong negative reactions from hate groups “may accelerate as well.”
Critics of the SPLC have said the group has too broad a definition when characterizing what actions or statements make up hate groups and anti-government groups.