A group of survivalists in Florida trains children to use AK-47s "in order to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemy threats."
As the Daily Mail notes, "growing fears that the end of the world is nigh due to either a natural disaster, terrorism strike or even a zombie apocalypse have sparked a sharp spike in interest in survivalism":
As many as three million Americans now fall into the category dubbed "preppers" - people who are making detailed plans for the end of the world as we know it.
As their numbers grow so too does a booming industry of organizations ready to help teach wannabe survivalists the skills that could suddenly become very necessary in the event of a major catastrophic event.
One such organization is the North Florida Survival Group. Members of the group say the training is necessary because they believe youngsters are “going to be called up to defend the Constitution,” specifically the Second Amendment, MSN writes.
According to the group’s website, which claims it can teach you and your family everything you need to know to survive in the wild -- including how to live off the land, how to purify water and how to handle heavy duty firearms including AK-47s-- it now has over 200 members and that is growing with about one person signing up per day, the Mail reports.
Armed with his camera, photographer Brian Blanco gained rare access to the group of survivalists to capture a series of photos for Reuters on December 8, 2012.
Brian Blanco / Reuters via Twitter
Members of the North Florida Survival Group wait with their rifles before heading out to perform "enemy contact drills" during a field training exercise in Old Town, Florida, December 8, 2012.
The brainchild of the group, Jim Foster, vetted Biacno for two hours at a restaurant before granting him permission to attend their expedition, the NY Daily News writes. He jumped at the opportunity without hesitation.
"It's not every day that a photojournalist gets an invitation to shoot a militia gathering. Understandably, they tend to be fairly secretive groups who don't exactly keep the media on their Christmas card lists,” Bianco wrote in his blog.
Foster, 57, a retired police officer, claims the group has been getting increased interest from people looking to sign up since the Sandy Hook massacre late last year, Reuters reported.
"The life of our nation is at stake," Foster said. "History has shown it! It's time to do what needs to be done to make yourself and your families ready."
As these photographs of a recent training exercise show, the Mail writes, it isn’t just adults taking part. Concerned parents are bringing along their children - such as 9-year-old Brianna - so they too can learn valuable skills such as how to fire an AK-47.
Brian Blanco / Reuters via Twitter
Brianna, 9, of the North Florida Survival Group carries an AK-47 rifle from the group leader's truck before heading out to conduct "enemy contact drills".
The group passionately supports the right of U.S. citizens to bear arms and its website states that it aims to teach "patriots to survive in order to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemy threats."
Per the website:
"I am an American who believes our freedoms are in jeapordy (sic)," explains Foster.
‘"We want people to know that we cannot depend on our government to take care of us in a catastrophy (sic). In fact, if our government is intent on moving us to socialism, they may even cause the catastrophy! (sic).
"People, your family needs you to be strong, be ready and be able to survive anything that comes our way. We're here to help teach you exactly that, how to survive!"
The group is open to everyone with a few exceptions: no "socialists, marxists, nazis or progressives" are allowed.
Training is free, although members are asked to supply their own gear.
"So if you fancy spending your weekends conducting field training exercises in a tactical harness this might be the group for you. You never know when the training might come in handy," The Mail adds.
To see more photos and read more on the North Florida Survival Group check out Reuters Photographers Blog.