It’s Starting. “Leaded” Tea Party Planned for Labor Day Includes Guns

A perfect Labor Day celebration: kids and guns

Somewhere David Koresh is cheering in his grave. The guy who mixed guns with religious zealotry would no doubt approve the line drawn in the sand by the organizer of a “Leaded” Tea Party in Northeast Florida.

Several days after plans were announced for a Labor Day celebration where people could fire their guns at a shooting range on a Nocatee business’s property, St. Johns County code enforcement officers this week ordered the range closed down by Tuesday.

In response, “Leaded Tea Party” organizer Richard Willich, president of MDI Holdings and the new Florida chairman of Americans for Prosperity, said he has banned all government officials without warrants from the MDI property, west of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Barricades were erected and security personnel at the property’s two entrances are checking for identification before anyone is allowed on the premises.

Willich told his security people to erect barriers on the day of the Tea Party and keep out all federal, state and county officials who didn’t have a warrant

Nocatee is a massive development of regional impact (DRI) that straddles two counties, St. Johns and Duval. Since the housing market collapsed in Florida, it is mostly infrastructure: perfectly paved roads, sharp-edged curbs, spotless sidewalks, and a few model homes here and there amid pines and palms. A handful of businesses are operating in its office park areas, including MDI Holdings, which apparently added a gun range on its property. The range, however, is not zoned and its owners intend to keep it that way.

Willich…said Thursday that county officials e-mailed him an application for a temporary range permit. But nothing’s been applied for or agreed upon yet.

“We’re going to do what we planned to do,” Willich said. “There’s no compromise, no permit.”

He’s a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran and said he bristled when two county Code Enforcement officers came Tuesday and told him to remove the firing range on his 25-acre company compound 10 miles east of U.S. 1 in Nocatee.

“I was astonished,” Willich said. “They flashed badges and were arrogant and aggressive. It was obvious they didn’t like the idea of our having guns, and they were trying to deter us from having the picnic. What right do they have to do that?”

A perfect one, actually.

Assistant County Administrator Darrell Locklear said code officers Leslie Banda and Steven Wyland went there only because someone complained about an unpermitted gun range on the property…Gun ranges are allowed only in certain zoning areas, he said. But Nocatee, one of the most highly regulated zoning areas in the county, is not one of them…

After the code officers left, Willich told his security people to erect barriers on the day of the Tea Party and keep out all federal, state and county officials who didn’t have a warrant.

“We’re going to hold the picnic, I tell you that,” he said. “If you were treated the way I was, you’d feel the way I do. I’m a patriot and believe in my fundamental rights and believe they are being trampled on here.”

Trying to get a grip on what exactly MDI Holdings does is difficult. Everything I come up with is shadowdy and squishy, but it seems to have something to do with health care, security, and oddest of all — the government.

One description:

Ponte Vedra-based MDI Holdings houses three subsidiaries. Healthcare-focused software auditing services provider Reassure Technologies International and MDI Government Healthcare Services, a company that builds customer provider networks for the government, are on the first and second floors, respectively, of the 100,000-square-foot facility. The third floor houses Medical Partners of America, which builds custom provider networks for self-insured companies and employees of MDI Holdings.

Whatever they’re doing, they must make a ton of money at it.

A company executive shows off a painting in the boardroom of the $20 million MDI headquarters

MDI also touts a large collection of original paintings and photographs, a collection assembled from the Florida State Archives, the Library of Congress, National Geographic magazine, the Associated Press and National Archives. Among the works that adorn the walls are four Norman Rockwell paintings, four reproductions of work by St. Augustine resident John Shaw and a reproduction of a 1589 map that shows Sir Francis Drake attacking St. Augustine, which is the oldest image of the Florida State Archives.

Stoll said the company has a “Google-like” culture, and works hard to make it a great place to work — even bringing in catered lunches daily for its employees. And for the occasional getaway, the company also bought a 30-acre farm in Mandarin, complete with horses and cattle, for management retreats, dinners and other events.

Another source indicates the company is not based in Florida, but San Antonio.

A group of institutional investors has closed on a $4 million private placement of common stock and warrants issued by security-technology company MDI Inc.

Under the terms of the private placement, San Antonio-based MDI (NASDAQ: MDII) sold 2.4 million shares of stock at $1.67 per share…

MDI President and CEO J. Collier Sparks says the security-technology market is projected to grow significantly in the next several years…

MDI is the holding company for MDI Security Systems, a company that manufactures integrated security-management products and services.

It’s the security arm of the company that uses an on-premises gun range, Willich says.

The range, which has been there since January, is a huge dirt pile with two target areas and a backstop berm. It’s inside a U-shaped embankment on the company’s property. An orange citation notice has been posted there.

The firing range issue came to light last week when MDI officials contacted law enforcement authorities to arrange for traffic control for the planned Labor Day celebration.

It’s interesting that Willich is so quick to reject the government, yet asked for law enforcement help with traffic control. I bet that won’t be the end of it, in light of what they have in mind.

The event is planned to include a live band, free food, horse rides for children and use of the shooting range for free target practice. The dirt pile has shooting range-type targets set up.

O.K., say somehow in the midst of all these guns, ponies, and hamburgers, one teabagger accidentally shoots another. What happens next? Do they call a government-run ambulance, staffed by government-employed emergency responders, or do they handle it themselves to avoid having their rights “trampled?” You know, hold the person down, pour some whiskey down his or her throat, heat a pair of pliers in the barbecue grill, yank out the bullet, and sew ’em up?

This whole thing gives me a feeling of impending doom. The teabagger movement seems so counter to my world, where things seem to be getting just slightly but steadily better lately. These angry, shouting white people who hate the government now that Bush and Cheney aren’t in charge of it are just really hard to understand. And scary.

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