Militias on the rise

Setheesh Moturi


In the same amendment that gives American citizens the right to bear arms, there is language that allows for citizens to organize into a militia for “the security of a free State.” In Oregon, a group of ranchers and farmers have done just that. The Bundy brothers, and their friends, have brought light to an issue that urban Americans may not give much thought.

On January 2nd news began to spread that a group of gun-bearing men had taken over a federal building and were refusing to leave. As details surfaced, we learned that the group had bulldozed over a Native American archaeological site using a government-owned machine.

It turns out, in fact, that the building this militia was occupying was on Paiute, Native American land, and the building itself contained many ancient artifacts and relics. The group’s departure hinges on one contingency: that federal land be returned to local and state governments, local ranchers and the Paiute, of course.

The group, self-identified as ‘Citizens for Constitutional Freedoms’ (CCF), was not randomly organized. The story actually begins with Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven, local Oregon farmers, who were convicted of arson for lighting fires on federal land to protect their property and crops. After serving the appointed time in 2012, they were called back to prison to serve an additional four years each. Both men agreed, saying they would seek clemency from President Obama, and have nothing to do with Bundy’s group.[1]

The CCF has issued a call for all anti-government groups to join them, which may be the scariest part of all. Although this group is small and seemingly inconsequential, not all citizen led militias are. Many militias have many chapters in many states.

There are two types of militias that have extended from legal discussion of the second amendment: organized and unorganized. The Navy and the National Guard are examples of organized militias.

Unorganized militias were intended by the constitution for the purpose of citizens being able to rise up against unconstitutional behaviors. Few of these militias are funded or recognized by the government.

One of the largest unorganized militias is the Constitution Security Force (CSF) with 38 chapters throughout the U.S. as of 2013. In each chapter, each member is trained for combat, and many members are former or current members of the military or local police departments.

Ex-police chief Mark Kessler created quite a stir in 2013 by releasing a few profanity-filled videos about guns and the second amendment. In one of them he says, “The Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting or sporting purposes whatsoever. … I don’t believe you need permission from anybody to carry a gun under your jacket or over it. … I don’t believe you need to go through a background check to secure a firearm. … I didn’t write the constitution… That’s just my thinking.”[2]

Normally, any healthy conversation about gun rights would have ended shortly into the second statement, if not by the last. Yet, I assume, many far right proponents of the second amendment can be heard cheering and applauding in the background of these statements.

According to a recent Aljazeera article[3], there has been an explosion in the numbers of these groups since the Obama administration took power in 2008; and many follow a similar group of core ideals. According to the same article, most groups oppose the rise of the New World Order and fuel Sept. 11 conspiracy theories. With the number of anti-government running about 1,200[4] and growing, it would not take long to engage the whole community by angering one group.

The government often chooses to ignore and avoid confrontation with these groups because of their sheer numbers. An SPLC highlight[5] on these groups says that a sect of the antigovernment militias “believe that they, not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials, get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore.”

This is dangerous because that racist uncle we might have and the friend who keeps posting gun rights infographs could one day team up with all their like-minded friends and occupy for their constitutional rights. What happens when we marginalize these groups is that we foster their existence. This, or any type of extremism cannot be confronted by ignorance or agitation..

UPDATE: On Jan. 27, eight members of the CCF group were arrested with one member shot and killed. Other members of the group are being encouraged to leave.

[2] All quotes from this video

Setheesh is a sophomore mathematics and religious education major.