Militia organizations in the United States

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Not to be confused with State defense force.

Militia organizations in the United States are private organizations that include paramilitary or similar groups. These groups may 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 US states, with membership estimated at between 20,000 and 60,000.[4][5]


Militia organizations in the United States are 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.[citation needed]

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. 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.[6][7][8] 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, anti government 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.[3]

During the 1990s public attention to the militia movement began to grow.[citation needed] The Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, the second anniversary of the Waco fire, drew nationwide attention to the militia movement as Timothy McVeigh was erroneously associated with the Michigan Militia.[citation needed] This increased public scrutiny and law enforcement pressure, and brought in more recruits due to the heightened awareness of the movement.[9]

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.[10] A break finally came when far right leaders abandoned the group to their fate.[11] 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.[10] 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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14] The property was then surrounded by the entire Jeff Davis County sheriff's department, state troopers, Texas Rangers, and agents of the FBI.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15] The Hutaree militia of Michigan was in fact prevented from killing a police officer and bombing his funeral by the FBI in cooperation with another local militia.[16] 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. 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.[17]

By 2001, the militia movement seemed to be in decline, having peaked in 1996 with 858 groups.[18] 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.[16][19][20]

Militias' primary forms of outreach are gun shows, shortwave radio, newsletters, and the Internet.[21]


The ideologies of militia groups can be described as political, constitutional, conspiratorial, or community based. Militia groups claim legitimacy based on colonial writings, particularly the Declaration of Independence; Article 1, section 8 and the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution; the Militia Act of 1792; Title 10, Section 311 of the United States Code; and the concept of an independent wing of the citizenry that enacts its own governmental beliefs.[9] Watchdog groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have portrayed militias as often holding racist ideologies. White supremacist views are held by prominent paramilitary militia groups such as the former Aryan Nations of northern Idaho, although counterexamples do exist. For example, The Gadsden Alabama Minutemen who exposed the racist "Good Ol' Boys Roundup" held by ATF agent Eugene Rightmyer had a black member, though this does not necessarily discredit racism claims in general, but rather racism against blacks in that specific militia.[citation needed] Robert Churchill noted a white supremacist "resistance wing" of the movement and a radical libertarian "constitutionalist wing" motivated by various, at times overlapping, concerns.[8] The beliefs of the latter group center around opposition to the power of federal or local governments and limitations imposed by governing parties or erosions of liberties by governing parties.[22]

Some militia groups see the power of 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.[citation needed] But some groups such as Georgia's F.E.A.R. conspired to commit various acts of terrorism (including assassination of the President). Ten members of the organization (which included some active duty military) have been convicted over the last three and half years for numerous crimes including three murders.[5][23]

The ideologies most commonly associated with these militia groups and organizations are the Christian Patriot movement, the Constitutional militia movement, and opposition to the creation of an alleged one world government.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Active militia groups[edit]

United States Militia groups[24]
Militia group name State, county or locale
United States Constitutional Militia United States, United States
Texas Citizens Militia Texas
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
Arkansas Defense Force Arkansas, Statewide
Militia of Washington County Arkansas, Fayetteville
American Resistance Movement United States, nationwide
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
Illinois Volunteer Militia (IVM) Illinois, statewide (Chapters currently in Will and DuPage Counties)
Indiana Citizens Volunteer Militia, 3rd Brigade (deactivated) Indiana, Tippecanoe County
Indiana Constitutional Militia Indiana, statewide
Indiana Militia Corps (deactivated AUG 2014) Indiana, Statewide
Indiana Sedentary Militia (deactivated) Indiana, Hendricks County
Indiana Sons of Liberty Indiana, statewide
Indiana's Greene County Militia (deactivated) Indiana, Greene County
Indiana State Militia 14th Regiment (deactivated) Indiana, Owen County
Indiana Volunteer Militia Indiana, southeast
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 Militia Kentucky
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, seven counties centered around Ingham County
Ocqueoc Militia Michigan, Presque Isle County, Montmorency County, Alpena County, Cheboygan County
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
United States Constitutional Militia North Carolina, Jacksonville, North Carolina
Constitutional Militia of Clark County Ohio, Clark County
Constitutional Militia of Franklin County(M.C.M.) Ohio, Franklin 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
Eastern Oregon Militia Oregon, Eastern Oregon / Oregon Militia Alliance
Oregon Militia Alliance Oregon, statewide
Oregon Militia Corps Oregon, statewide
Northwest Rangers Advanced Training Group Oregon, Central Oregon / Oregon Militia Alliance
Northwest Spectres Oregon, Portland area
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
Tooele County Light Foot Militia Utah
Virginia Citizens Militia Virginia, Roanoke
Virginia Militia Virginia
Grays Harbor County Patriot Militia Washington, Grays Harbor County
King County Volunteer Militia Washington, King County
Kitsap County WA Militia Washington, Kitsap County
Washington State Militia Washington, statewide
United States Constitutional Militia Washington, Tacoma, Washington
Brazos Militia Central Texas, Texas

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Mulloy, Darren (2004) American Extremism: History, Politics and the Militia Movement, Routledge.
  2. ^ Williams, David C. (2003) The mythic meanings of the Second Amendment: taming political violence in a constitutional republic. Yale University Press. p. 363. ISBN 0-300-09562-7
  3. ^ a b c d Pitcavage, Mark; Institute for Intergovernmental Research: Camouflage and Conspiracy. The Militia Movement From Ruby Ridge to Y2K. American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 44, No. 6, Pages 957–981, SAGE Publications, 2001.
  4. ^ a b c Berlet, Chip & Lyons, Matthew (2000). Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, Guilford. ISBN 1-57230-562-2
  5. ^ a b "F.E.A.R. Militia Wanted To Bomb Georgia Park". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-09-14. 
  6. ^ Rise Of Citizen Militias: Angry White Guys With Guns Daniel Junas CovertAction Quarterly April 24, 1995
  7. ^ Morris Dees, Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat. Harper Perennial (April 23, 1997) ISBN 0-06-092789-5
  8. ^ a b Robert H. Churchill, "Arming for the Last Battle: Secular and Religious Millennial Impulses within the Militia Movement", 1999 Annual Conference of the Center for Millennial Studies, Boston University, Boston, MA, November 9, 1999. Online copy
  9. ^ a b Militia Nation Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons Progressive Magazine
  10. ^ a b Freemen surrender peacefully to FBI Cable News Network June 14, 1996
  11. ^ Freemen Were Alone New York Times June 15, 1996
  12. ^ Christopher Whitcomb, Cold Zero: Inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. ISBN 0-552-14788-5. (Covers Ruby Ridge, Waco Siege and creation of CIRG.)
  13. ^ a b One injured in separatist standoff CNN News April 27, 1997
  14. ^ a b Verhovek, Sam Howe. Separatists End Texas Standoff As 5 Surrender, The New York Times, May 4, 1997. Accessed June 29, 2014.
  15. ^ United States Department of Justice, "Operation Megiddo", November 2, 1999, page 22; cited in Robert H. Churchill, "Arming for the Last Battle: Secular and Religious Millennial Impulses within the Militia Movement", 1999 Annual Conference of the Center for Millennial Studies, Boston University, Boston, MA, November 9, 1999.
  16. ^ a b Carter, Gregg Lee, ed. (2012). "Militias". Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, Volume 1. pp. 575–6. 
  17. ^ FBI Project Megiddo Report
  18. ^ "Militias 'in retreat'". BBC News. May 11, 2001. 
  19. ^ Stephanie Schendel (2012-03-07). "Election, economy spark explosive growth of militias". NBC News. 
  20. ^ Nicholas Kimbrell. "America's militiamen resurgent since Obama election". The National. 
  21. ^ The Militia Movement Anti-Defamation League
  22. ^ Crothers, Lane: The Cultural Foundations of the Modern Militia Movement. New Political Science, Volume 24, Issue 2 June 2002, pages 221 – 234
  23. ^ "Final Member of FEAR Terror Group Sentenced". Retrieved 2015-09-14. 
  24. ^ "Active 'Patriot' Groups in the United States in 2009 | Southern Poverty Law Center". Retrieved 2010-04-01. 

Further reading[edit]