There's No Ammo on the Shelves -- Is It the Gun Nuts' Fear of Obama-lypse?
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Victorville is set on a flat stretch of the Mojave Desert among Joshua trees and tumbleweeds 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Fertilized by land speculation and the riskiest of loans, blocks and blocks of beefy McMansions started sprouting here in the last decade, baiting low-income families with the glorious dream of homeownership.
Priced just right, Victorville was a testament to the accessibility of the American Dream for all, regardless of wealth. And in 2007, it became America's second-fastest growing exurb, doubling its population to just over 100,000 in six short years.
There was no local industry to support such growth, and despite the two-hour average commute, each way, people flocked here from all over Southern California, eventually making Victorville more ethnically diverse than Los Angeles.
But the egalitarian dream didn't last. Prices have now dropped to pre-2000 levels. Whole neighborhoods of beefy homes, some of them half-built, now stand abandoned, eerily blending in with the barren desert landscape.
The unemployment rate in Victorville doubled in the past year, spiking way above the national average to between 12.5 and 18.5 percent (the national and state averages are 8.5 and 11.2 percent, respectively).
Violent crime is on the rise, too. Victorville saw a 7 percent jump in 2008, while some surrounding areas clocked as much as 13 percent more homicides, rapes, robberies, assaults and motor vehicle theft.
There are two sides to Victorville, the old and the new. Before its stint as a dirt-cheap suburban paradise, Victorville was a tiny God-fearing community populated by white conservatives living an isolated frontier lifestyle with heavy military overtones.
One of the local World War II-era bases had shut down more than a decade ago, but a Marine Corps base remains operational and is still one of the biggest employers in the area. Until the housing boom flooded the area with urban homeowners, 1 out of every 6 adults here was a veteran.
The influx of new -- and mainly nonwhite -- homeowners has been a cause of racial tensions here for more than a decade.
"The chemistry out here is perfect for more and more racism," said Tom Metzger, the infamous leader of the white supremacist hate group White Aryan Resistance who lives in Southern California, about the Inland Empire back in 2005. "You've got all these nonwhites moving here from Orange County and Los Angeles trying to flee the crime perpetrated on them by their own kind in their ghettos, and when they come out here, they're basically shoving forced integration down the throats of the whites who have traditional claim to this area, and that is provoking a negative racist reaction among whites, as it damn well should. It's great!"
What has been simmering conflict may soon be bubbling over the edge. There is almost a sense of inevitability of a spike in hate crimes.
"In the past month, there was only one reported hate crime. But you have to wonder how many go unreported. I think a lot, " a local crime beat reporter told me. "Just go to our comments section and read what people are saying. There is definitely a perfect storm building."
In October 2008, two teenagers belonging to a local hate group shot a black man in a liquor store parking lot. Schools have been dealing with an uptick in race-based conflicts and shooting threats. Earlier this month, one of the cars of a Jewish family was trashed inside and out, its engine destroyed and swastikas painted on its doors and hood.
As I'm writing this, news is coming out that police arrested a group of six local skinheads from Hammerskin Nation for attempted murder, witness intimidation, conspiracy to commit murder and assault with a deadly weapon.