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Self-reliance or self-preservation? Survival gear attracts militias

July 14, 1997

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (AP) _ The night-vision goggles are supposed to be used when the electricity goes out. And that one-year supply of freeze-dried food? It’s for the next big blizzard.

Of course, the goggles can be used by hunters at night. And the food would seem a sure bet to turn up in a survivalist’s cache.

Touted as a trade show for avid campers and paranoid parents, vendors insisted the Philadelphia Preparedness and Self-Reliance Expo over the weekend was not designed for shadowy right-wing militia groups, despite the militia leaders in attendance.

``People get the wrong idea about these kinds of shows,″ said Keith Oliver, as he collected $249 in cash for an infrared night-vision adapter that clips to a camera _ or rifle.

``You can use this to spot wildlife,″ Oliver said. ``Or to find young kids. Lost. In the woods.″

Promoter Mike Duve said most of the 2,000 people at the three-day convention were families concerned about disasters.

``If there’s no electricity or lights and you want to change a tire or start up a generator, would you rather carry lots of big lights or just have one small tool?″ he asked. ``That’s the primary reason these people are interested in night-vision goggles.″

But Duve has also organized gun shows for the Columbus, Ohio-based People’s Rights Organization. And the convention’s big draws were militia heavyweights John Trochmann of the Militia of Montana and Mark Koernke, known as ``Mark from Michigan″ on the talk-show circuit.

``Hedge your bets, put away food, put away water,″ said Trochmann, who was hawking such manuals as ``The Sniper Handbook,″ ``The Oklahoma Bombs″ and ``Building an Underground Home.″

Except for a few Trochmann groupies around the Noxon, Mont., militia leader, few were willing to discuss any New World Order or unmarked black helicopters.

``I’m not even interested in this stuff,″ said Garry Carlile of Blackwood, N.J., after buying a $300 night-vision scope. ``It’s to drive around with the lights off.″

Reluctantly, the 29-year-old told of his dozen or so guns, from a 9mm handgun to several shotguns, and his interest in bulletproof vests and gas masks.

``Just to have,″ said Carlile, who wore a T-shirt that read: ``I’ll give up my gun when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.″

Jamon Scott of Orem, Utah, was selling Emergency Essentials dried foods.

``I keep one year’s food supply,″ Scott said. ``If things got to the point where supermarkets were closed down, you’d want enough to share with your neighbors.″

Nearby, Richard Corvin of Roanoke, Va., said business was brisk for military gear, including $100 radiation suits and $85 bulletproof flak jackets. He wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest in the convention center but said he wears one ``whenever I go outside.″

Asked about the hot-selling camouflage military fatigues, retired police officer Jim Ramm said: ``Cammies? I wear them around the house.″

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