Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Saturday, 12 September 2009 11:47 UK

Nevada's battle of the presidents

By Stephen Evans
BBC News, Las Vegas

Barack Obama faces considerable opposition to his plans for healthcare reform, not least from a man in Las Vegas, who is recruiting Thomas Jefferson in his opposition to the US president's plans.

Glen Parshall
Mr Parshall fears the US is becoming socialist under President Obama

Glen Parshall is a great bear of a man who could make a pretty good living as a Santa Claus in any Christmas grotto.

Except, that is, for the armoury of hundreds of guns with which he is surrounded and which he fondles with gentle care.

Glen Parshall, you see, is a pawn-broker in Las Vegas who specialises in guns. He takes them in return for a loan, and sells those he keeps when the loans are not repaid.

Business, he tells me, is very good at the moment because high unemployment means more crime and so more people wanting to protect themselves by carrying a gun.

And high unemployment also means more desperate people depositing their weapons in return for his four-month loans at 10% interest a month.

'Tree of Liberty'

Mr Parshall, though, is not just a businessman for whom the recession is a boon. He is also one of the out-riders for libertarians who believe that America under Obama is turning into a socialist state.

Former US President Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson wrote about the 'Tree of Liberty' in a letter to William S Smith

I do not exaggerate.

"We've got someone who is an out-and-out Marxist, a total socialist, who is trying to put everything under government control," Mr Parshall told me.

"There's a lot of people that are rising up," he says.

He and other self-described "free-thinkers" make much of Thomas Jefferson's statement: "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

I asked him whether, given the taking over of America by a socialist, violence against Mr Obama would be legitimate.

"If they don't start conforming to our constitution, we may have to rise up in arms and take our country back," Mr Parshall replied, though he says that would be a last resort if elections did not do the job first.

Mr Parshall is a polite, engaging man, open to discussion, even gentle argument. Though the sign behind him does say: "I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man," which I know not to be true because he engaged in a pleasant battle of wits with me.

Searing anger

Nobody argues that Mr Parshall represents great numbers of Americans, but that does not mean he is insignificant.

A map of Nevada

Liberals say there is a dangerous atmosphere on the fringe.

They point to the numbers of armed men who now turn up at healthcare meetings asserting their right to bear arms, sometimes wearing badges with the quote about "refreshing the Tree of Liberty" with blood.

And there is, certainly, a searing anger at Mr Obama's policies.

Everywhere Mr Parshall's comrades now turn, they see more evidence of the country being taken away from them.

A short distance from the pawn shop, for example, is the University of Nevada Medical Centre, a hospital funded by the tax-payer.

In a small room on the first floor, illegal immigrants are being treated at great cost for kidney failure.

This enrages some people who cannot understand how the cash-strapped American tax-payer now comes to be funding the healthcare of people who have no right to be in the country in the first place.

Controversial treatment

I met Philip Ramoth who told me through his mask as he was being dialysed that he came to America from British Honduras without the right papers.

He managed to get a job driving a garbage truck until his kidneys failed. He then went to the hospital, which took him in.

As the head of emergency medicine Dale Carrison told me: "We see these people because we're physicians and that's our role, and secondly, because it's the law."

He says there is a legal obligation not to refuse treatment to people who would otherwise die.

But it is not a popular view in Las Vegas, and it adds to the belief on the right, that the country, as they love it, has been stolen from them.

By the way, the sentence "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" may have been written first by one of the great founding fathers of American liberty, but it was made famous, too, by one Timothy McVeigh.

He, you remember, murdered 168 people when he attacked what he saw as a tyrannical federal government in Oklahoma City in 1995. It was the slogan on his T-shirt.

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