Militia Movement

The militia movement is a political movement of paramilitary groups in the United States. Members of the movement typically refer to themselves as militia, "unorganized militia",[1] and "constitutional militia".[2] While groups such as the Posse Comitatus existed as early as the 1980s,[3] the movement gained momentum after controversial standoffs with government agents in the early 1990s. By the mid-1990s, groups were active in all 50 states with membership estimated at between 20,000 and 60,000.[4] Although in unconnected groups, they may be united in their beliefs of the federal government's threat to their freedom and, in particular, the movement's opposition to any limit of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.


The militia movement is a paramilitary out-growth of the independent survivalist, anti-tax and other causes in the patriot movement subculture in the United States. The formation of the militias was influenced by the historical precedent of existing paramilitary movements such as the Posse Comitatus and groups associated with protecting liberties of governed people.

Although the far-right Patriot movement had long been marginalized, cultural factors paved the way for the wide-scale growth of the libertarian or ideological Militia movement. This attitude corresponded with the perception that the federal government's powers and reach had increased greatly.

Precursor groups existed in the form of small militias that had organized during the 1970s and 1980s, but the movement underwent a wave of growth and rose to prominence in American culture in the 1990s. Events such as the killing of Gordon Kahl by government agents, the controversies of the Presidency of Bill Clinton, and the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement angered those on the right and left. The catalysts came in the form of the FBI's 1992 shootout with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, and the government's 1993 siege and eventual destruction of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.[5][6][7] Historian Mark Pitcavage described the militia movement of the 1990s:[3]

The militia movement is a right-wing movement that arose following controversial standoffs in the 1990s. It inherited paramilitary traditions of earlier groups, especially the conspiratorial, antigovernment Posse Comitatus. The militia movement claims that militia groups are sanctioned by law but uncontrolled by government; in fact, they are designed to oppose a tyrannical government. Adherents believe that behind the "tyranny" is a left-wing, globalist conspiracy known as the New World Order. The movement's ideology has led some adherents to commit criminal acts, including stockpiling illegal weapons and explosives and plotting to destroy buildings or assassinate public officials, as well as lesser confrontations.

Some Militia groups saw the Davidians and the Weaver family as martyrs[4] and used Ruby Ridge and Waco as examples of the federal government's threat to people who refused to conform. Additionally, those two events became a rallying cry to form militias to defend the people against the forces of a government perceived as hostile. Both incidents involved weapons alleged to be illegal and federal agents' efforts to confiscate them. In both, the government failed to produce evidence of illegal activity. Government agencies responsible for the deaths of the Branch Davidians, and members of the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge, were later exonerated and exempted from further investigation. This heightened tensions in militias, as many leaders were gun rights advocates and firm believers in the right to bear arms.

Resentment of the federal government only heightened with the passage of the Brady Act in 1993 and the Assault Weapons Ban a year later. Those laws also helped to drive more moderate gun owners into sympathy with some of the militia movement's positions. The USMS and FBI shootings of Sam and Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge alienated many in the gun rights movement.[7] Some members of the militia movement viewed this as an attempt by the government to disarm the American people, a preliminary step to clear the way for an invasion of United Nations troops and the establishment of a New World Order.[5] Many people joined militias to protect themselves, their families, and their rights from perceived government intrusion.

The growth of movement had not gone unnoticed. During the 1990s public attention to the militia movement began to grow. The Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, the second anniversary of the Waco fire, drew nation-wide attention to the militia movement as Timothy McVeigh was erroneously associated with the Michigan Militia. This increased public scrutiny and law enforcement pressure, and brought in more recruits due to the heightened awareness of the movement.[8]

In March 1996, agents of the FBI and other law enforcement organizations surrounded the 960-acre (390 ha) eastern Montana "Justus Township" compound of the Montana Freemen. The Freemen were a Sovereign Citizen group that included elements of the Christian Identity ideology, espoused common law legal theories, and rejected the legitimacy of the Federal Reserve.[4] Montana legislator Carl Ohs mediated through the standoff. Both Randy Weaver (one of the besieged at Ruby Ridge) and Bo Gritz (a civilian negotiator at Ruby Ridge) had attempted to talk to the group but had given up in frustration, as did Colorado Senator Charlie Duke when he had attempted negotiations.[9] A break finally came when far right leaders abandoned the group to their fate.[10] The group surrendered peacefully after an 81-day standoff and 14 of the Freemen faced criminal charges relating to circulating millions of dollars in bogus checks and threatening the life of a federal judge.[9] The peaceful resolution of this and other standoffs after Ruby Ridge and Waco have been credited by some to the creation of the Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) in the U.S. Department of Justice in 1994.[11]

Another incident occurred in Fort Davis, Texas a year later in March 1997 when a faction of the self-styled "Republic of Texas" militia group seized hostages. The Republic of Texas group believed that the annexation of Texas as a state in 1845 was illegal, that Texas should remain an independent nation, and that the legitimate government of Texas was the group's leadership.[12] Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe were taken at gunpoint in retaliation for the arrest of member Robert J. Scheidt, who had been arrested on weapons charges. Leader Richard McLaren then declared that the group was in a state of war with the federal government.[13] The property was then surrounded by the entire Jeff Davis County sheriff's department, state troopers, Texas Rangers, and agents of the FBI.[12] McLaren's wife, Evelyn, convinced him to surrender peacefully after a week-long standoff. The McLarens and four other Republic of Texas members were sent to prison.[13]

A 1999 US Department of Justice analysis of the potential militia threat at the Millennium conceded that the vast majority of militias were reactive (not proactive) and posed no threat.[14] In January 2000, the FBI Project Megiddo report stated:

Most militias engage in a variety of anti-government rhetoric. This discourse can range from the protesting of government policies to the advocating of violence and/or the overthrow of the federal government. However, the majority of militia groups are non-violent and only a small segment of the militias actually commit acts of violence to advance their political goals and beliefs. A number of militia leaders, such as Lynn Van Huizen of the Michigan Militia Corps -Wolverines, have gone to some effort to actively rid their ranks of radical members who are inclined to carry out acts of violence and/or terrorism. Officials at the FBI Academy classify militia groups within four categories, ranging from moderate groups who do not engage in criminal activity to radical cells which commit violent acts of terrorism. It should be clearly stated that the FBI only focuses on radical elements of the militia movement capable and willing to commit violence against government, law enforcement, civilian, military and international targets.[15]

By 2001, the militia movement seemed to be in decline, having peaked in 1996 with 858 groups.[16] However, with the post-2007 global financial crisis and the election of Barack Obama to the United States presidency in 2008, militia activity has experienced a resurgence.[17][18]

Militias' primary forms of outreach are gun shows, shortwave radio, newsletters, and the Internet.[19]


The ideologies of Militia movements can be described as political, constitutional, conspiratorial, or community based. Militia groups claim legitimacy based on colonial writings, particularly the Some Militias are formed to protect a community from outside intervention or perceived negative influence by outside parties. Some Militias have also formed around a particular ideology without all members agreeing on every particular issue. Power struggles, politics, and disagreements persist as in any organization; hence internal ideologies can change from time to time.

Some of the movement sees power of a government as a form of tyranny.[3] Their beliefs focus on limited-government, on taxes, regulations, and gun control efforts as perceived threats to constitutional liberties. Many of their views are similar to those of the John Birch Society, tax protester movement, county supremacy movement, state sovereignty movement, and the states’ rights movement.[4] Gun control (see Second Amendment) is considered unconstitutional, and a move toward fascism by the government. The controversial novel Unintended Consequences by John Ross in 1996 is an example of these beliefs. However, not all Militias are armed or support the use of violence in political change.

The ideologies most commonly associated with the militia movement are the Christian Patriot movement, the Constitutional militia movement, and opposition to the creation of an alleged one world government. Most militias are derived from a local populace who come to common belief, and so ideologies tend to differ by region. Most agree upon local regulation opposed to global, federal or state regulation.

Active militia movement groups, 2010

United States militia groups, 2010[21]
Milita group name State, county or locale
2nd Alabama Militia Alabama, Mobile
Alabama Shoals Badgers Alabama, Tuscumbia
Alaska Citizens Militia Alaska, Nikiski
Arizona Citizens Militia Arizona, Douglas
Arizona Militia Arizona, Glendale
Cochise County Militia Arizona, Tombstone
Northern Arizona Militia Arizona, Flagstaff
Militia of Washington County Arkansas, Fayetteville
American Resistance Movement All States, USA/Nation-Wide area
State of California Unorganized Militia California, Monrovia
Minutemen Militia Colorado, Fort Collins
Florida Free Alliance Florida, Nokomis
Florida Free Militia Florida, Palm Coast
Georgia Militia Georgia, Chatham County
Militia of Georgia Georgia, Lawrenceville
Idaho Citizens Constitutional Militia Idaho, statewide
North Idaho Light Foot Militia Idaho, Bonner County
135th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Illinois, statewide
Illinois State Militia (Unorganized) 167th Battalion, 21st FF Illinois, statewide
Indiana Citizens Volunteer Militia, 3rd Brigade Indiana, Tippecanoe County
Indiana Constitutional Militia Indiana, statewide
Indiana Militia Corps Indiana, Statewide
Indiana Sedentary Militia Indiana, Hendricks County
Indiana Sons of Liberty Indiana, Statewide
Indiana's Greene County Militia Indiana, Greene County
Indiana State Militia 14th Regiment Indiana, Owen County
Kansas State Militia Kansas, Wichita
Kansas Regional Militias Kansas, North East, South East, Western, North Central, South Central, Central Kansas Militias
1st Joint Public Militia Kentucky, Bowling Green
Kentucky State Militia - Ohio Valley Command Kentucky, Louisville
Northern Kentucky Militia 105th "Blue Guard" Kentucky, Bracken,Mason,Pendleton,Countys
Louisiana Militia Louisiana, statewide
Louisiana Unorganized Militia Louisiana, Abbeville
Maine Constitutional Militia Maine, statewide
Southern Sons of Liberty Maryland, statewide
Delta 5 Mobile Light Infantry Militia Michigan, Eaton County
East-Central Volunteer Militia of Michigan Michigan, Lapeer County
Hutaree Militia Michigan, Southern
Jackson County Volunteers Michigan, Jackson County
Lenawee County Free and Independent Militia Michigan, Adrian
Michigan Militia Michigan, Redford
Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines 8th Division Michigan, South Central
Northern Michigan Backyard Protection Militia Michigan, Northern
Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia Michigan, 13 counties
West Michigan Volunteer Militia Michigan, Muskegon County
Capitol City Militia Michigan, Eaton County and Ingham County
Mid Michigan Militia Michigan,7 Counties,centered around Ingham County
Ocqueoc Militia Michigan, Presque Isle County, Montmorency County, Alpena County, Cheboygan County
44th Spatha Libertas Minnesota
Minnesota Militia/Army of Mississippi Minnesota, St. Cloud
Minnesota Minutemen militia Minnesota
Constitution Defense Militia of Attala County (CDMAC) Mississippi, Attala County
East Central Mississippi Militia Mississippi, East Central
Missouri Militia Missouri, Kansas City
Militia of Montana Montana, Noxon
New Hampshire Patriot Militia New Hampshire, statewide
United States Constitution Rangers New Hampshire, West Lebanon
New Jersey Militia New Jersey, Trenton
New Jersey Guardian Angels New Jersey, Jackson
Empire State Militia 11th Field Force New York, Northwestern
Sons of Liberty New York, Buffalo
Bloodville Volunteers New York, Saratoga County
North Carolina Citizens Militia North Carolina, Charlotte
Constitutional Militia of Clark County Ohio, Clark County
Northeastern Ohio Defense Force 3BN Ohio, Lisbon
Northwestern Ohio Defense Force 4BN Ohio, Kenton
Ohio Defense Force State Headquarters Ohio, Zanesville
Ohio Militia Ohio, statewide
Southeastern Ohio Defense Force 3rd Platoon Ohio, Belmont County
Southwestern Ohio Defense Force 5BN Ohio, Lebanon
Unorganized Militia of Champaign County Ohio, St. Paris
Oregon Militia Corps Oregon, statewide
Southern Oregon Militia Oregon, Eagle Point
Keystone Freedom Fighters Pennsylvania, Gettysburg
East Tennessee Militia Tennessee, East
American Patriots for Freedom Foundation Texas, Spring
Central Texas Militia Texas, Central
Texas Well Regulated Militia Texas, Edwards County
Texas State Militia Texas
Virginia Citizens Militia Virginia, Roanoke
King County Volunteer Militia Washington, King County
Kitsap County WA Militia Washington, Kitsap County
Washington State Militia Washington, statewide

See also


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