The New Survivalists: Oregon 'Preppers' Stockpile Guns and Food in Fear of Calamity

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Veterinarian
Richard Kimball of Burns has noticed a disturbing trend among some
of his friends.

A Rockaway
Beach couple has stockpiled food and assembled survival backpacks
for their three adult children in Portland and Eugene. "If
chaos arises, they can put the backpacks on so they can get home,"
said Kimball, 72. "There is a pistol in each of the backpacks."

Another longtime
friend, a Harney County cattle rancher, recently bought an AK-47
assault rifle and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. "Does that tell
you anything?" Kimball asked. "He’s scared."

La Grande welder
and gunsmith Jim Rector, meanwhile, said he has supplies and a jetboat
at the ready to carry him and his wife to a secluded hideout along
the Snake River.

They’re all
signs that the survivalist movement, slumbering since the Y2K scare
and, before that, Jimmy Carter’s bumpy presidency, has been shaken
awake.

Government
officials, academics, authors and others – in addition to those
doing the stockpiling – say a growing number of people are
independently building caches of food, weapons and precious metals
such as gold.

As in earlier
movements, survivalists are centered in conservative, rural areas
such as eastern Oregon. Only this time, many prefer to be called
"preppers" – for preparedness – and are driven
by fears, stoked by Barack Obama’s presidency, that economic catastrophe,
sweeping technological failure and societal upheaval are just around
the corner.

And though
the movement intersects with a wave of weapon and ammunition hoarding
among some who fear that Obama will clamp down on gun rights, there’s
little talk of forming militias as in past survivalist movements.

"People
fear change; people get angry when they don’t understand something,"
said La Grande City Councilman Steve Clements, 52, who teaches finance
and information systems at Eastern Oregon University. "I think
there is a lot of fear associated with having the first black president."

La Grande’s
Mike Sirrine, a Vietnam veteran and retired human resources manager
who has added guns to his arsenal and is stockpiling beans and rice,
said it’s not that clear-cut.

The new survivalism,
he said, reflects "an indistinct fear, not a very well-focused
fear." He added, though, that in our 21st century culture,
a collapse no worse than the Great Depression would trigger "rioting
and people dying in the streets."

James Wesley
Rawles, a survivalist author, lecturer and consultant who lives
in Idaho, estimates that preppers make up 1 percent of the U.S.
population – but 5 percent in eastern and southwestern Oregon.

The former
U.S. Army intelligence officer is author of Patriots,
A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse
and creator of
SurvivalBlog.com, a 4-year-old
site that has logged millions of hits. It’s a big draw among preppers
committed to surviving what Rawles, 48, calls TEOTWAWKI – the
end of the world as we know it.

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the rest of the article

September
7, 2009

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