The mere existence of so many heavily armed citizens filled with hate and anger toward various elements of American society is troubling enough in its own right. They number in the hundreds of thousands. More troubling is the violent convergence now underway within right-wing extremist movements — sanitized with the label “alt-right.” Largely under the media radar, disaffected extremist groups with long histories of squabbling have been independently pooling resources, some even infiltrating our government through the outreach efforts of right-wing extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriff’s and Peace Officers Association. Over the past year, we’ve witnessed political violence erupt between right-wing extremist protesters and counterprotesters at pro-Trump rallies in Minnesota, Washington, California and now Virginia. This rebranded alt-right extremist movement has the ultimate goal to disrupt civil society, undermine government institutions and pick which laws — if any — they will abide by, and what supposed “justice” they will administer on their own authority.

But the story, in a very real sense, didn’t begin in 2017. As with the Waco and Ruby Ridge sieges during the 1990s, the 2014 Bundy standoff in Nevada and the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge siege in Oregon have served not only as recruitment opportunities for anti-government and hate groups, but they also serve as a radicalization facilitator. Why? Because extremists in the 2014 and 2016 standoffs were allowed to take up arms against the federal government and threaten law enforcement officers without suffering any legal consequences.