The number of extreme anti-government groups in the United States grew to an all-time high in 2012, and a backlash against federal gun control measures could fuel more growth in the movement, the Southern Poverty Law Center said on Tuesday.
Active militia and so-called Patriot groups totaled 1,360 last year, a massive jump from the 149 recorded in 2008 in an annual count of extremist groups by the Alabama-based civil rights organization.
The number of organizations the center terms hate groups, or those that attack minority groups, dropped slightly to 1,007 in 2012 from a record high of 1,018 in 2011.
Active hate groups identified by the center are scattered throughout the country and include the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racist skinheads.
Some organizations, such as Christian groups, strongly object to their categorization by the center as "hate groups" and say the civil rights organization is itself stirring up hatred.