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Data: FBI; Chart: Axios Visuals

Growing waves of street violence between armed groups — combined with evidence of record gun sales — has some experts worried the U.S. could be facing an "incipient insurgency."

Why it matters: Despite its high murder rate compared to other rich countries, organized political violence has been rare in the U.S. in recent decades. But growing clashes in the streets, combined with an election that may remain uncertain for weeks, forecasts a turbulent fall — and beyond.

What's happening: A report published last week by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that 20 violent groups on both the left and the right have taken part in more than 100 protests related to the George Floyd killing, as Fred Kaplan noted in a smart piece in Slate.

  • Counterdemonstrations led by right-wing militant groups rose from 17 in June to 160 in July, with 18 featuring violence.

At the same time, FBI background checks for gun sales hit an all-time high of 3.9 million in June, eclipsing a record set way back in ... March, the month pandemic lockdowns kicked in.

  • The ubiquity of guns — there were nearly 400 million firearms in the U.S. as of 2018 — acts as an accelerant to violence of all kinds, including the politically motivated.

What they're saying: Insurgency expert David Kilcullen wrote in a June report that the U.S. is in a state of "incipient insurgency," where "inchoate action by a range of groups" leads to increasingly frequent violence — and violence that is increasingly organized.

Yes, but: Viral videos aside, the streets of major U.S. cities are generally peaceful, and murder rates — while up from last year — are still well down from earlier eras.

"The upcoming election — how it plays out, as well as how it ends up — could determine how deeply into crisis the country continues to plunge."
— Fred Kaplan

Go deeper: American society is teetering on the edge

Go deeper

Nov 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Poll: Some 10% of Trump supporters say Biden won

Trump supporters at a rally in Reading, Pa. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images.

Some of President Trump’s own supporters are not convinced he won the 2020 election, with one in 10 of them saying they think Joe Biden will be the next president, according to a new poll from a bipartisan group focused on strengthening democratic institutions.

Why it matters: With mail-in voting expanding Biden's lead and the president promising legal battles in several states, perceptions of the results are starting to form, according to the survey by Citizens for a Strong Democracy. The group is led by former Department of Homeland Security secretaries from both parties.

In photos: Twin Cities on edge after Daunte Wright shooting

Demonstrators shout "Don't shoot" at the police after curfew on April 12 as they protest the death of Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a day earlier. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

There were tense scenes in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center Monday night, after demonstrators defied a 7 p.m. curfew to protest for a second night the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright.

The big picture: The curfew was announced following a night of protests and unrest over the killing of Wright, 20, during a traffic stop Sunday. Following peaceful protests and a daytime vigil, police again deployed tear gas during clashes with protesters Monday night, according to reporters on the scene.

In photos: Life along the U.S.-Mexico border

Children at the border of the Puerto de Anapra colonia of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, hang on a border fence and look to Sunland Park, N.M. Photo: Russell Contreras/Axios

Axios traveled to McAllen and El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to see how the communities are responding to an increase of migrants from Central America.

Of note: The region in South and West Texas are among the poorest in the nation and rarely are the regions covered in depth beyond the soundbites and press conference. Axios reporters Stef Kight and Russell Contreras walked the streets of McAllen, El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez to record images that struck them.

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