Affirmative Reactionaries

Arizona's militias aren't the exclusive domain of white supremacists - people of color are joining the ranks, too.

But Sanchez says she doesn't understand why Latinos, including her mother, seem to have such an aversion to the movement.

Pete Garcia, president of Chicanos por la Causa, believes that's obvious. "Their actions, their history tell us that they're a racist group. At least that's what our experience is," he says. "If there are [Mexican Americans in militias], it's just a fringe few. And they're probably disenfranchised and disconnected."

Recently, Sanchez told a good friend, also Mexican American, about the First Mounted Rangers, and her friend was shocked. How could she have anything to do with such a neo-Nazi group? Sanchez says she felt frustrated and confused.

"Why do people think racism when they hear 'militia'?" she asks. "Why don't they think of George Washington instead?"

Militia members are generally bewildered to find that others don't share their fixation with the Founding Fathers. Sanchez pores over the constitutional debates searching for the original intent of its bewigged framers much like a Calvinist would look for divine inspiration in the Bible.

The result: a constitutionalist scholarship redolent of fire and brimstone.
"The Constitution without the Second Amendment has no teeth," Sanchez says, echoing a common militia belief: that the government only respects the rights of its citizens when the populace can arm itself with high-powered rifles and armor-piercing bullets.

On the other hand, Sanchez admits, the militia obsession with the Second Amendment gets old. She tries to prod the readers of her newsletter to think about other issues as well. A typical title: "We were blessed by the Sixth Amendment!"

Generally, she keeps the pages free of theconspiracy stuff that plagued Mike Johnson's meeting. But Sanchez says she can't help sympathizing with the worriers who smell a U.N. plot to bring down the red, white and blue. "The world is changing so that the United States is sovereign no longer," she says. And only a vigilant patriot movement seems willing to keep it from happening.

Meanwhile, the First Mounted Rangers are preparing for bigger and better things. They've offered their services to Governor J.Fife Symington III if he ever decides to seize control of the Grand Canyon. The men can fall out just as soon as the governor gives them the word.

"We'd be ready," Sanchez says.

An august chamber at the Legislature. Fred Vazquez stands at a podium preparing to speak to the State's Rights and Mandates Committee, a body of recent vintage created by federalist legislators fed up with unfunded Beltway mandates.

Vazquez is short, olive-skinned and has striking green eyes. He often wears a cowboy hat on his shaved head, boots on his feet, and he looks like the descendant of a Mexican vaquero. But he's not. The 36-year-old is a transplanted New Yorker of Spanish, Cuban and Bermudan ancestry.

He's here to testify in favor of a bill that would eliminate the need for a permit and 16 hours of training to carry a concealed weapon. His reasoning: that the law requiring the concealed-weapon permit violates the intent of the Arizona Constitution.

As a militia member and Libertarian party regular, Vazquez refuses to get a concealed-weapon permit. Doing so, he says, would be like applying for a permit to breathe.

Besides, he tells the committee, "Nobody trains the criminals how to shoot their weapons safely." Vazquez, an out-of-work legal assistant, has driven a cab to make ends meet, and that's like painting a target on the back of his head. "Nobody asks the criminals to get a permit."

He doesn't bother to tell the legislators that there's a .25-caliber pistol concealed in his back pocket.

He also doesn't tell them that he couldn't get a concealed-weapon permit even if he wanted one. At least not until his pending criminal case goes to trial in April or May.

The charge--what else?--carrying a concealed weapon.
In November, Vazquez was arrested by Gila County sheriff's deputies when they realized he was carrying a Russian-made Makarov 9mm pistol in a zipped-up fanny pack around his waist. When they asked to see his concealed-weapon permit, Vazquez handed them the homemade version carried by many local Libertarians.

It's a document that members of the Libertarian group Second Amendment for Everyone (which they truncate to SAFE, naturally) call a "Declaration of Intent to Carry a Concealed Weapon." And it includes an 86-year-old debate among the framers of Arizona's Constitution which proves, the Libertarians say, that the state's forefathers wouldn't have stood for the Legislature requiring a permit to carry concealed weapons.

Libertarians like Vazquez say they've been carrying the ersatz permits for the past two years just in case one of them was arrested. They figure that by turning it over to an arresting officer, the 1910 debate will have to be entered as evidence in a trial, and the law requiring a concealed-weapon permit will be overturned.

But Vazquez's opportunity for martyrdom may have been spoiled by a two-inch tear in his fanny pack. When the case is heard, he expects his attorney to avoid constitutional concerns by arguing that the weapon wasn't really concealed.

Vazquez says his attorney, John Karow, is more interested in Vazquez's welfare than striking a blow for concealed weapons. That disappoints the rebel in him, but it appeals to his practical side. After all, six months in jail would be tough on his family. He has to think about his wife, who recently gave birth to their third child.

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