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Researchers cite surge in antigovernment groups

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — President Obama’s administration and the gun control debate after the Connecticut school shooting have led to surging numbers of antigovernment ‘‘patriot’’ groups, according to a civil rights organization that tracks them.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported the rise on Tuesday in its annual report on extremist groups.

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The number of antigovernment patriot groups, one category tracked by the center, rose dramatically over the past four years, from 149 groups in 2008 to 1,360 today, researchers reported. That was up about 7 percent from the 1,274 active in 2011.

The election and reelection of the nation’s first black president and the ragged economy have fueled their growth, said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the law center.

On gun control, the debate following the Newtown, Conn., mass murder of schoolchildren has led to ‘‘a kind of white-hot rage unleashed on both the radical right and also within more mainstream political circles,’’ he said.

In the week following the Dec. 14 school shooting, the FBI said it conducted more background checks for firearms sales and permits to carry than it has in any other one-week period since 1998.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the law center urged the creation of a task force to assess whether there are enough federal resources devoted to the threat of domestic terrorism.

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