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Preppers plan for a bleak future

Updated 12:49 am, Monday, December 24, 2012

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  • Adam Palmer holds up a shotgun in the woods Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Ansonia. Palmer believes in being prepared with the right tools in case events take place such as natural disasters. "Every gun is a tool," Palmer said. "Like a shovel, every tool has its purpose." ( Cody Duty / Hearst Newspapers ) Photo: Cody Duty, Cody Duty/Hearst Newspapers / The News-Times
    Adam Palmer holds up a shotgun in the woods Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Ansonia. Palmer believes in being prepared with the right tools in case events take place such as natural disasters. "Every gun is a tool," Palmer said. "Like a shovel, every tool has its purpose." ( Cody Duty / Hearst Newspapers ) Photo: Cody Duty, Cody Duty/Hearst Newspapers

 

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Adam Palmer is a 40-something insurance salesman with a black belt in karate.

He's a master teacher of Reiki healing, a Japanese technique for treating stress and other conditions through spiritual means. But he also puts his faith in guns, maintaining a personal armory of more than a dozen firearms.

And this man of contrasts is committed to preparing for Teotwawki, "the end of the world as we know it."

Earlier this year, Palmer founded the Connecticut branch of the American Preppers Network, the largest group in a growing movement based on preparation for natural or manmade catastrophes that government won't be able to handle.

The "preppers" movement attracted wider notice following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre amid reports that the killer's mother may have been concerned about a coming calamity. Nancy Lanza, also the first victim of the rampage, was an avid gun collector and her sister told a WHDH reporter that she had an interest in preparing for economic collapse.

Preppers and closely related survivalists prepare for such a collapse and a range of other scenarios, from doomsday to the next Hurricane Sandy.

"What we teach is that you prepare for everyday catastrophes," said Phil Burns, the Utah resident who co-founded the American Preppers Network in 2008. "That could be the death of the everyday breadwinner in the family to a localized disaster or a national disaster."

Palmer said he became interested in preparedness after living through the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, which killed 57 people and caused an estimated $20 billion in damage. After the quake, Palmer found himself stocking up on small amounts of extra food, water and batteries.

His interest grew from there, and he now stockpiles first-aid supplies and enough food and water to last three months.

"You'll find that people who prepare most just want more control over their lives," he said.

With roots in the more extreme brand of Cold War-era survivalism of the 1950s and '60s, the preppers movement has picked up steam the last few years because of economic instability and natural disasters.

Podcasts and even singles sites now cater to preppers and other survivalists. They host an annual, two-day Self Reliance Expo.

The Connecticut Preppers Network has attracted more than 80 members in just 10 months of existence. Meetups, often held in conjunction with the Northeast Emergency Survival Preparedness Group, explore everything from fishing and making fire to building shelters and identifying edible plants.

Most preppers are urban or suburban dwellers. Some do little more than store canned goods and water -- just in case -- while others make it a full-time commitment, growing all their own food and participating in combat-style exercises on the weekends.

Palmer, who falls somewhere in the middle of that scale, said the Connecticut Preppers Network includes everyone from soccer moms to ex-military men.

For most preppers, guns are an important tenet of the philosophy.

They view their weapons as essential not for sport or protection but potentially for survival. Palmer lists firearms among the "four basic areas of prepping," along with food, water and medical supplies.

The Queens, N.Y., native began target shooting when he was 9 at the encouragement of a friend's father. In high school, he was on the school rifle team. He purchased his first firearm, an AR-7 .22 caliber rifle, when he was 18. He won't say exactly how many guns he now owns.

Like most preppers, Palmer fervently defends the Second Amendment.

"People think guns are either the ultimate evil or the ultimate good," he said. "But a gun doesn't have a personality. It's a tool."

But more than that, he said, "Firearms are a symbol of freedom. They're a symbol of choice."