Jon Ritzheimer, the de facto leader of Arizona’s anti-Islam movement, says he has a new plan to stop Syrian refugees and Islamic terrorists from attacking Americans: He’s asking people to sling a rifle over their shoulder and carry the gun at all times.
“Terrorists are cowards; they are weak,” he tells New Times. “Terrorists don’t go after hard targets like military bases,” but instead try to scare the masses by attacking civilian (soft) targets.
“If you put a rifle on your back, that makes you a hard target,” he says.
Inspired by the attacks Friday in Paris and the national debate about admitting Syrian refugees into the country, Ritzheimer started a Facebook group called “Pissed Off Americans” to spread the word.
“The federal government is now bringing the battlefield to our country. They are bringing in ‘refugees’ by the masses and refusing to declare war against Radical Islam. We as American Citizens have the right to protect ourselves and our families from such threats,” Ritzheimer writes on Facebook.
“The FBI has announced that they have over 900 active investigations into ISIS supporters and sympathizers going on right now in the US. Muslims have shown that they are cowards and only attack soft targets (usually unarmed civilians). We are asking that People utilize their second amendment [right] and carry a rifle with them in public everywhere that it is permitted.”
Within hours of creating the group, his followers began heeding the message; people from all over the country uploaded images of themselves with guns and made comments like:
“Hell yeah! Let's get’em.”
“I carry every where I go...fuck em.”
“U.S. Army combat infantry vet. I'm fuckin ready.
“Not military, but I like shooting things and blowing shit up.”
Ritzheimer tells New Times that his plan is both practical and symbolic: “It is a message to the federal government that we have lost faith in their ability to protect us American citizens, and, yes, I do believe it can prevent an attack or at least keep the casualties to a minimum” — especially if the U.S. ends up taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees, as promised.
(According to a recent article in The Economist, “of the almost 750,000 refugees who have been admitted to America since 9/11, only two Iraqis have been arrested on terrorist charges; they had not planned an attack in America but aided al-Qaeda at home.”)
Ritzheimer says he followed the debate among state governors and other politicians about whether to ban Syrian refugees (or in the case of Arizona, all refugees) and was thrilled to hear Governor Doug Ducey call for a pause on all refugee resettlement activities:
“It was good to hear, and good to see a politician finally put a smile on my face,” Ritzheimer says, though he’s aware that this power doesn’t rest with states.
“What happened in France is a prime example of why we shouldn’t let refugees in. I feel sorry for these people, but we should look at the fact that other Muslim countries aren’t taking any refugees in because they know there are radical Muslims among them,” he says.
“ISIS has said that they were going to use the refugee situation [and] embed themselves in Western countries. It’s pretty scary seeing what’s going on.” He says he heard that “people are even predicting that within 10 years, we’ll see a crescent moon on the French flag.
“The problem is that the Muslim population is growing, and they’re beginning to be a force to be reckoned with.”
That being said, even if the U.S. were to cease allowing any Muslim refugees, the threat of homegrown terrorism still making toting a gun worthwhile.
“I like to take a ‘better safe than sorry approach,’” he says. “Today’s moderate could be tomorrow’s terrorist, extremist, or radical. And honestly, yeah, anytime I see a Muslim or someone who decides to alight themselves with that faith, I’m not going to trust them.”
To be clear, Ritzheimer says he doesn’t think we need to “round them up and ship them out” since he says he’ll be the first to defend the constitutional right to freedom of religion, but that the solution lies in acknowledging “that Islam should be recognized as a hate group and an ideology.”
He stands firm, as he has since he stumbled into the media spotlight earlier this year with his anti-Islam protest in Phoenix, that it is not a religion.
“I am critical of Islam, in general,” he adds. “I don’t believe that every Muslim in the world is a bad person, but I believe that many of them are being ill-informed and [misguided] by their imams.”
He calls President Obama and Hillary Clinton “naive” for saying that we’re not at war with Islam: “Islam has declared war on us, on the infidels, it’s part of their religion and faith. It’s right there, clear as day, in the Quran.”
So what would he do if he sat in the Oval Office?
Certainly not what Obama’s doing, but also not the “boots on the ground” approach being touted by Senator John McCain. For the record, Ritzheimer is “not a fan of McCain” and thinks he’s a “war profiteer and war hawk.”
“Some people might be surprised by my thoughts on how we should combat ISIS,” he says. “I do believe that we are responsible for what has happened over there . . . but that meddling in their affairs is none of our business.”
Ritzheimer holds strong libertarian beliefs and advocates for an isolationist foreign policy. “I think we should bring our boys home and maintain security in our country; focus on the economy. It’s tough because I know America is supposed to be the Global 911 force . . . but every time we stick our nose in some sort of affair over there, it creates trouble. Let the people handle their issues and fight it out.”
He acknowledges that “it’s tough when you have someone like [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] in power,” but he just doesn’t think intervention is worth it.
“We can’t just go over and win. It’s Islam we’re fighting. You’re not going to get rid of them.”
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Meanwhile, protecting innocent Americans from what he’s described in the past as “the evils of Islam” and making “life as difficult as possible for Muslims” are his top priorities.
And as for the burden of toting a rifle around 24/7, he says, after 11 years in the Marine Corps, “I know it’s pain in the butt to remember to take your rifle with you everywhere. But it’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when the next terrorist attack will occur.”