Guns and Gear

Adam Kokesh admits mental instability, calls for armed march on D.C.

Despite his self-proclaimed history of mental instability and post-traumatic stress, one-time congressional candidate and perennial activist Adam Kokesh is organizing a pro-gun rally in which marchers will walk with loaded rifles into Washington from Virginia.

“This is now a call for mass civil disobedience on July 4th anywhere in Washington, D.C.,” Kokesh wrote on the event’s Facebook page. “We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny.”

Kokesh, who served as a Marine NCO and reservist, attended Claremont McKenna College. His 2005 psychology thesis, “Hot, Dirty, and Dangerous: Seven Months of Civil and Not-So-Civil Affairs In And Around Fallujah” discusses suffering from post-traumatic stress. “I had a number of anxiety attacks those first few days back [from Iraq],” Kokesh wrote.

Kokesh was particularly disturbed by crowds, something which may prove problematic with the armed crowds at the forthcoming march. “I didn’t feel comfortable getting drunk, and the crowds made me nervous. When dealing with crowds in Iraq, I was always armed and I always had someone watching my back, usually with a machine gun. A cardinal rule for interacting with crowds was to never let anyone get behind you,” Kokesh wrote. “We had all heard the horror story of a Marine who was killed with his own pistol. When crowds got close around me I would often just leave one hand on my pistol and let my rifle dangle on the sling in front of me.”

The feelings continued at college. “Every time someone bumped into me from behind at a party I instinctively reached down for my pistol and had a moment of awkward panic before realizing that I was being absurd. I had developed such a strong habit of waking up two or three minutes before my alarm that I often woke up thinking I had to be somewhere. I was so used to being on guard when in public that it was hard to truly relax at first.”

Kokesh also allegedly pressured the college into letting him have a gun on campus in violation of the school’s policy on firearms. Students who attended Claremont at the time Kokesh did remember him getting agitated when the college would not permit the Marine-turned-student to have his weapon on campus. “He said something like, ‘I’m a veteran and I fought for these rights’ and he ended up getting his gun on campus,” a student recalled.

Kokesh mentioned his post-traumatic stress disorder in his 2010 campaign for the Republican congressional nomination in New Mexico. He has also mentioned it in blogging on his site and told the Air Force Times in 2009 that he had battled post-traumatic stress after he returned from Iraq.

Kokesh smoked medical marijuana to help him deal with the “flashbacks and nightmares” because he found “the cocktail of prescription drugs” he had received was ineffective, according to his father in a December 12, 2011 interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a former prosecutor for the District of Columbia who now works with the Second Amendment Foundation, thinks Kokesh’s protest is bad idea.

“It’s a very dangerous thing to do because the bridges that connect Virginia and Washington are under the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia where carrying firearms are illegal.”

“There is a pretty good chance that they will be met by the U.S. Park Police or the Washington Metro police,” says Shapiro. “Most likely detained and prosecuted for a number of different charges. Not just gun charges, they are obstructing access to that bridge.”

Shapiro predicts that the protest will backfire. “This is precisely the kind of criminal act that the District of Columbia will almost certainly act upon,” he says. “Even though I support the Second Amendment, I don’t support illegal activity or endangering the public. This strikes me as a very dangerous idea.”

Shapiro doubts that Kokesh’s march will even make it over the bridge. “They probably won’t even make it over the bridge since they are in D.C. jurisdiction and will most likely be arrested on the bridge or blocked if the police know about it beforehand,” says Shapiro.

Kokesh declined a request for an interview.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Kokesh’s Marine rank.