NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Meet William Kostric. In a nation that has seen four presidents gunned down and attempts made on the lives of at least 11 others, Kostric felt it appropriate to show up outside President Obama's Portsmouth, N.H. town hall meeting with a loaded firearm strapped to his leg.
New Hampshire state law is pretty clear about citizens' rights to carry firearms in public. No license is needed to carrying a pistol or revolver in the open; carrying a concealed weapon requires a license from the state or local police.
Kostric took advantage of the law on Tuesday, all while holding a sign saying "It Is Time To Water The Tree Of Liberty," invoking a phrase from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Portsmouth police spokesman Lt. Frank Warchol told the Boston Globe that because Kostric was on private property, he would not be arrested. The school housing the town meeting hall belongs to a church.
Kostric was a guest on Tuesday's Hardball with Chris Matthews. Matthews went after the protester and wondered why "you're carrying a goddamned gun at a presidential event?" Kostric's reply: He was there peacefully, guns aren't unusual in New Hampshire, and Americans lose rights unless they exercise them.
Law enforcement officials may become even more sensitive to such activity in the future.
Militia groups with gripes against the government are regrouping across the country and could grow rapidly, according to an organization that tracks such trends.
The stress of a poor economy and a liberal administration led by a black president are among the causes for the recent rise, the report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says.
Bart McEntire, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told SPLC researchers that this is the most growth he's seen in more than a decade.
"All it's lacking is a spark," McEntire said in the report. It's reminiscent of what was seen in the 1990s – right-wing militias, people ideologically against paying taxes and so-called "sovereign citizens" are popping up in large numbers, according to the report to be released Wednesday.
While anti-government sentiment has been on the rise over the last two years, there aren't as many threats and violent acts at this point as there were in the 1990s, according to the report. The mlitia movement bore the likes of Timothy McVeigh, who in 1995 blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people.
McEntire fears it's only a matter of time before the next eruption of violence.
These militias are concentrated in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and the Deep South, according to Mark Potok, an SPLC staff director who co-wrote the report. Recruiting videos and other outreach on the Internet are on the rise, he said, and researchers from his center found at least 50 new groups in the last few months.
The militia movement of the 1990s gained traction with growing concerns about gun control, environmental laws and anything perceived as liberal government meddling.
The spark for that movement came in 1992 with an FBI standoff with white separatist Randall Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Weaver's wife and son were killed by an FBI sniper. And in 1993, a 52-day standoff between federal agents and the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, resulted in nearly 80 deaths. These events rallied more people who became convinced that the government would murder its own citizens to promote a liberal agenda.
A series of domestic terrorism incidents over the past year have not been directly tied to organized militias, but the rhetoric behind some of the crimes is similar to that of the militia movement.
In his new book, "In the President's Secret Service," Ronald Kessler says Obama receives as many as 30 death threats a day, four times what his predecessor, George W. Bush, received.
Kessler alleges that Secret Service is cutting corners because of budget constraints, leaving America's first African-American president vulnerable. The Secret Service has denied the allegation.