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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Jonathan Serrie

Atlanta, GA

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Appleseed Teaching History with Guns

August 18, 2010 - 7:40 AM | by: Jonathan Serrie

Fearing the U.S. is a sinking ship, a man from North Carolina’s Piedmont has set out on a mission to teach everyday Americans how to shoot a rifle and how to embrace their Revolutionary War history.

“How do you measure the value of liberty to a society?” Appleseed Project founder Jack Dailey asked a small group of families and individuals that gathered this past weekend at the West Georgia Youth Range in Georgia’s Haralson County. “Wouldn’t you measure it by the number of people who care enough about it to show up to defend it? And if that’s the case, how does America in the 21st Century stack up to the America of the 18th Century? I’ve got to tell you, if you look at the difference, I’m not sure you’d use the word ‘progress.’”

Dailey’s criticism is not specifically directed at the Obama administration (he founded the Appleseed Project in 2005 during the second term of President George W. Bush), but “ignorance, apathy and laziness” which he believes have allowed government to grow and stray from the interests of the people.

“You run across a lot of Americans nowadays who feel that the freedoms we have now are considerably diminished from the freedoms that we had even 50 years ago,” Dailey said.

Over its five years of existence, the Appleseed Project has taught 20 thousand students at events scattered around the country, usually in small groups of 10 to 20 people at a time. The sessions alternate between lectures on the American Revolution and marksmanship clinics. According to Dailey, shooting is the hook.

“If I put an item in the paper saying that Wednesday night I’m going to tell the story of April 19, 1775… I may have a dozen people show up,” Daily said. “But if we promote the notion that if you come to an Appleseed you’ll learn how to shoot your rifle, cumulatively, we have thousands of people who show up.”

Randy Farmer, who drove an hour from the Atlanta suburb of Marietta to attend the Haralson County event, said shooting was the primary lure. “But I like the fact that the shooting is backed up with the history and the purpose for being a rifleman.”

“This is the good side of guns,” said Kayla Schlemmer of Decatur, another Atlanta suburb. As a woman, Schlemmer gets free admission to Appleseed classes — an offer that also applies to children and active duty members of the military. “This is guns out in the open. Anybody can come to these things. And it’s a very apolitical philosophy,” Schlemmer said.

Appleseed Project events are officially nonpartisan. “You won’t find any politics discussed that’s less than 200 years old,” Dailey said.

Appleseed organizers and participants claim they’re just mainstream Americans exercising their First and Second Amendment rights. For now, watchdog groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, would agree.

“At this moment, we do not believe that the Appleseed Project is an extremist organization,” said Bill Nigut, the ADL’s Southeast regional director. “We don’t know where they’re headed.”

Nigut said his concern is not the ordinary gun enthusiasts who account for much of the attendance at Appleseed events, but the occasional participant with extremist views.

“We also have documented people who go there who have clear anti-government views, who represent the Sovereign Citizens Movement and other militia-type movements — people who are convinced that they’ve got to arm themselves against the government breaking into their homes and taking control of their lives,” Nigut said.

But Dailey insists his program, which is open to any American regardless of “race, religion, gender, sexuality, national origin or ideology,” is more likely to have a moderating effect on anyone harboring extremist views because Appleseed offers hope.

“I have a guy in the program now who’s an instructor who says that when he came to this program, he was a hardcore survivalist and the only reason he came to Appleseed was to bring his wife so she could learn to shoot,” Dailey said. “When they got to Appleseed, he said it was like a miracle. He said they didn’t know there were other Americans who were trying to work to save this country and they wanted to be part of it.”

Dailey said while the founding fathers faced two choices: fight or submit, the Revolution gave future generations a third choice: representative government and the ability to change it through the electoral process. Dailey said many Amercans take that right for granted and fail to exercise it to its full potential, causing the nation’s political course to fluctuate like changes in the weather.

“What we’re interested in is climate change,” Dailey said. “We want to change the people who vote — the electorate. And the way we’ve chosen to do that is to try and put Americans back in touch with their heritage.”

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