THE NATURE AND VOLUME OF THE THREATS…. Ronald Kessler published a book earlier this year that noted, citing Secret Service sources, that threats against President Obama had risen 400% as compared to his immediate predecessor. In October, a Congressional Research Service report concluded that threats against the president this year have been “unprecedented.”

The New York Times reports, however, that the number of threats has “leveled off in recent months,” and ten months into his presidency, Obama “now receives about the same as his two most recent predecessors.” That’s the good news. The bad news is “the nature of the threats” remain a serious concern for officials.

A review of dozens of court records and police reports by The New York Times uncovered an array of cases, most of which did not gain public attention even as they rang alarm bells at some of the highest levels of the government. Some involved suspects with a history of violence or mental illness and easy access to guns and explosives, while others involved men whose menacing talk was ultimately deemed to be just that by the authorities.

Some of the threats are nothing short of chilling, most notably the airport security guard in New Jersey, “who had 43 guns and allegedly hollow-point bullets at home,” and who told his co-workers about “cutting a hole in a fence to shoot Mr. Obama on the day before the president was to land at Newark International Airport.”

It is encouraging that the quantity of the threats has lessened. I’d like to think some of the right-wing rage, accompanied by the near-collapse of the economy, has dissipated as the economy has slowly improved and the president’s agenda has turned out to be less scary than some of his more unhinged detractors feared.

But that doesn’t change the fact that those who talk about doing harm to the president have some very scary ideas.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.