If you hadn’t heard the term “prepper” before last Friday, you likely have now. That’s because the mother of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, who was killed by her 20-year-old, has been identified as a “prepper” by the media, based on the items police found inside her home and reports from those who knew her.
In light of the tragic mass-murder, some reports have said preppers are “the latest variant of that age-old American stalwart, the ‘survivalist’” with an image that’s “not good.” Others went as far to say that “weapon-loving” Nanzy Lanza “created a monster.” But is that really what these “preppers” are? We decided to get the reaction of one of the movement’s leaders. And according to him, the characterization of him and other like him has been a “deomnization” that is flatly untrue.
Phil Burns is co-founder of the American Preppers Network. In an exclusive interview with TheBlaze, he described the caricature of preppers as representing very little regarding what preppers are all about.
“It’s just brutal right now,” Burns said. “I have a community to look out for and to protect. This is my passion and I don’t like seeing it demonized.
“‘Preppers’ are being used as a scapegoat right now,” he continued.
When Burns first found out about the association of Nancy Lanza as a prepper and saw the aerial photo taken of her house, he said he wasn’t surprised.
“It didn’t seem illogical to me,” he said. “She lived in the country, in a big house […] it seemed logical that she might be a prepper.”
It was when he began receiving a slew of requests from the media and seeing articles that equated the term “prepper” with “survivalist” and other more extreme accusations that he realized what this association could mean for the movement, which has seen a growth of interest in recent years.
What a “Prepper” Really Means — and the Different Categories
What many might not realize is that there are subsets of preppers — subsets Burns said might have some similarities to the prepper movement as a whole but that have different intentions: there are survivalists, doomsday preppers and conspiratorial preppers.
But the majority who consider themselves preppers — if they would even think to give themselves the formal designation — subscribe to a philosophy that is nothing like those of the more extreme variety that have been featured lately on reality TV shows and by those getting ready for the Mayan apocalypse.
“To us in particular, preparedness is about living a self-reliant lifestyle . . . It’s about, in a disaster situation, having a philosophy that is not we sit around and wait for FEMA to show up. Preppers come together, help each other out and make sure everyone is provided for.”
It’s this community aspect — taking care of one’s self and family and then the community, in that order — that Burn’s said sets them apart from survivalists.
“We don’t have an isolation mentality,” he said, unlike the survivalists with whom the majority of preppers are confused.
Believing them all to be cut from the same cloth, Burns said, comes from ignorance. It’s sort of like seeing someone two-step and seeing someone tango. As Burns put it, they’re both dancing but if you don’t know the nuances of each dance, you might consider them the same thing.
Prep for “TEOTWAWKI”
Being a prepper means being ready for a disaster situation that would cause the world as you know it to end, Burns said. But this does not mean an apocalyptic situation. In fact, the American Preppers Network doesn’t allow discussion of the apocalypse or conspiracy theories.
The end of the world as you know it (or TEOTWAWKI) could be everything from a natural disaster — like the wildfires in Utah that Burns and other fellow preppers in the area helped to stymie in various capacities this fall — to personal tragedies, like when Burn’s daughter, 2-years-old at the time, was diagnosed with leukemia.
Just three and a half years ago, the father of eight children said this is when the world as he knew it ended. He and his wife went from at one moment thinking their daughter just had the flu to wondering if she could die within 24 hours.
Once they found out the type of leukemia she had was a less threatening, treatable kind, the Burns’ lost everything to help her. He had a successful business and was investing in another. They had a farm house in a nice area with land and fancy cars.
“For two and a half years, we lived off all the preps we set aside,” Burns said. “Had I not been prepared, I would not have been able to care for her at the level she needed.
“We lost a lot of stuff — house, farm, vehicles — but we didn’t lose our daughter.”
How a Prepper Sees Gun Ownership
It is actually because he and his wife came close to losing their child that he feels like he can understand some of the pain the family of victims in Connecticut are experiencing. But he said he can’t agree with the reaction some are having with regard to gun ownership rights.
“I understand the emotional reaction and being upset that preppers own firearms,” he began. “I would say I get that, but the commitment of APN, preppers in general, me specifically and the preppers I know personally, our goal is to be within the confines of the law at all times.”
For preppers, the purpose of owning a firearm runs the gamut, but many have them from home protection and hunting.
Burns said he advocates for gun owners to receive safety training, which would include proper storage and keeping the firearm safe before, during and after use. He later said this too should include medical training to treat gunshot wounds in the event that they might happen.
“All of these things are just part of a preparedness mindset,” he said.
When it comes to having a firearm in the house with children of any age, Burns said his philosophy is to make it “not an exotic experience.” Burns said he feels it’s negligent for parents — gun owners or not — to not teach their children about proper gun safety.
Burns, who is an NRA-trained safety officer, provided an example: two teenagers offer to help an elderly woman clean her garage. While doing so they open a desk drawer; inside it is a pistol. Swinging the firearm around inappropriately and pretending to fire, someone accidentally gets shot.
To Burns, if people aren’t exposed to firearms ever “it’s literally impossible to be safe with it.”
In other words, it’s about being prepared. And you don’t have to be a “prepper” to accept that.
Featured image via Shutterstock.com.