BROOKE GLADSTONE From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media, I'm Brooke Gladstone. On November 3rd, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. V. Bruen, the case that could provoke the most significant update to gun laws since District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. In that landmark hearing, the court upheld the interpretation of the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to own a gun for personal self-defense. Bruen challenges a century old New York state law requiring anyone who seeks to publicly carry a handgun to show quote "proper cause" before they can get a license to do so. If those restrictions are rolled back, cities will be forced to respect the same permissive gun rules that we already see in rural and conservative areas of the country. All this, of course, will be music to the ears of many, many gun groups around the country who've been pushing for just this kind of legislation to dig deeper into the world of gun rights activists. I'm handing over the hour to NPR reporters Chris Haxel and Lisa Hagen. In the run up to the 2020 elections, they produced a Pulitzer Prize winning podcast called No Compromise, in which they documented the growing rifts in the gun rights world.
GUN ACTIVIST Full defiance of tyranny is so alive and well in the great Keystone State. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania Thousands of people are protesting outside the state Capitol. Coronavirus has been disrupting American life and killing people for almost two months. The governor here has ordered Pennsylvanians to stay home. Businesses are closed. Hospitals are packed. But Americans are stubborn people.
CHRIS DORR To all the haters who are watching the page right now. I hope this display of American love for freedom triggers all of you. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL Chris Dorr started a Facebook page called Pennsylvanians against excessive quarantine, and 60,000 people joined almost instantly.
CHRIS DORR This whole Facebook page was started in order to get people to start fighting back against these tyrannical moves that Governor Wolf has been foisting upon the people of Pennsylvania. And I got to tell you, I was at the Ohio rally... [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN Chris Dorr doesn't actually live in Pennsylvania. He just started a Facebook page there. He also launched Ohioans against excessive quarantine.
CHRIS HAXEL Two of his brothers are in on it, too. They started reopen Minnesota and Wisconsinites against excessive quarantine. In just a couple of weeks each Facebook group had tens of thousands of followers spawning state rallies of their very own
LISA HAGEN Days after the Pennsylvania rally, the brothers post another video. This time with some buddies. They've got near identical banners behind them, a grainy image of someone aiming a tactical rifle.
CHRIS DORR Government and media never, ever, ever give back your rights without an absolute bloodbath fight. And that's what we're facing here guys [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL These aren't just random guys who don't like the government telling them what to do. These are seasoned gun rights activists.
LISA HAGEN You might be thinking, what could the 2nd Amendment possibly have to do with a pandemic? And you wouldn't be the only one.
AARON DORR I know how many times in the last couple days I've been asked by media outlets, Well, don't you guys do guns like, what's your big deal on this coronavirus issue? And why don't you stay in your lane? And I have had so much enjoyment telling media outlets all across the country that, you know, our lane is freedom and we just don't give a damn. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL That's Aaron Dorr, Chris's brother. The story of Americans protesting public health orders made headlines all over the world.
LISA HAGEN The reports read, like there was some kind of network of conservative activists secretly engineering what looked like organic grassroots protests, and the brothers were having a great time with that idea.
CHRIS DORR I told that idiot reporter, they're like, Are you guys being financed by the Koch brothers? I said, Oh no, no, you must have me mistaken. We're not the Koch brothers. All of America is Dorr brothers, and my goodness, we just want to get this country back. [END CLIP]
LISA HAGEN Ordinarily, state level gun rights groups can seem like small potatoes compared to the National Rifle Association, which most people think of as THE gun lobby.
CHRIS HAXEL But the truth is, there's a rift in the gun world, and it's growing, so we wanted to know why. When did so many gun owners start thinking the National Rifle Association is soft on guns. That NRA's stands for negotiating rights away? The Dorr brothers are part of a gun movement that's fundamentally distrustful of centralized government. It's the heart of what we're going to call the no compromise philosophy.
AARON DORR At the end of the day. Gun rights is not about hunting, it's not about sports shooting somebody. It's about a response to tyrannical government. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL After Aaron started the first group Iowa Gun Owners, his brothers joined in, along with a couple of friends. Patrick Parsons and Greg Pruitt. These five guys now run operations in about a dozen states, and they are always hustling to keep those audiences interested and donating.
LISA HAGEN To do that, they need content. That's why back in January of 2020, they and 20000 other gun rights activists gathered in Richmond, Virginia, to protest Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam sweeping new gun control legislation.
CHRIS HAXEL Thousands of people are watching live. It's a pro-gun bonanza that the brothers can turn into a flood of content for weeks. Videos, articles, memes, many of them identical and posted simultaneously across their network of Facebook pages, which is great if you're pro-gun and stuck at home. See if you care about this rally, you could watch CNN.
NEWS REPORT Ahead of today's demonstration, the governor declared a state of emergency and banned all weapons on Capitol grounds. But outside that secured area, many demonstrators were heavily armed. Look at them, they look like soldiers there. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL Or you can skip the media.
UNKNOWN DORR BROTHER Beautiful patriots...
CHRIS HAXEL And watch Facebook....
UNKNOWN DORR BROTHER Look at them. This is what keeps governments at bay, is what keeps tyrants at bay. It's what keeps criminals at bay right here. We love it. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL A guided tour from people you trust for five minutes or five hours.
VIRGINIA ACTIVIST 1 You've got the fake news media, helicopters and stuff flying around. They'll probably do here today what they do at Trump rally.
VIRGINIA ACTIVIST 2 Yeah, hundreds of people showed up.
VIRGINIA ACTIVIST 2 Hundreds of people. And then they'll show some video clips from 4:30 this morning. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL Now, if you're a Missourian watching, say, the Missouri Firearms Coalition page, you think, look at our hometown guy on the ground. Aaron's giving me a tailored virtual experience.
AARON DORR We know how insane guys like Peter Meredith are. All the rest of these people in the capital, that's the Jill Schupp's, these radical nutjob socialist idiots who once you disarm us. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL But he does that for Iowans, too.
AARON DORR Well, if they ever had the votes to do it in Iowa, they would do it. They would do it. And that's the lesson here today. [END CLIP]
CHRIS HAXEL Now, the Dorr brothers and their friends aren't the only gun rights group, with there's 'no compromise' philosophy. We found active organizations in 36 states. Some are independent. Others are part of Dorr style networks.
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LISA HAGEN These brothers are just one faction in a whole anti NHRA movement, but they get a lot of people talking. And the more we heard, the more we realized. The story of the Dorrs might help explain what's changing about gun culture... And America.
BROOKE GLADSTONE Coming up, Lisa and Chris traveled to meet some of the Dorr brothers' supporters. This is On the Media.