The Second Amendment to the Constitution says, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The Founders finalized the Bill of Rights in 1791, and at the time, America had no standing army so a well-regulated militia was necessary for the security of a free State. The free State the Founding Fathers referred to was America and not individual states like many right-wing radical groups think. America has a well-regulated militia today that most Americans recognize as the Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard, and it is regulated by the Department of Defense.
A Montana Republican state representative, Wendy Warburton, is proposing the creation of an armed paramilitary volunteer group to help authorities during emergencies; she has support from gun-rights advocates and radical conservative lawmakers who do not trust the federal government. Warburton said that House Bill 278 would allow the formation of military-like companies she calls home guards that will answer to the governor and sheriffs during emergencies. Other states have volunteer home guards, but they are not armed like Warburton proposes. There are obvious, inherent dangers in Warburton’s proposal, and the recent anti-government sentiment from Tea Party groups and politicians alike should give lawmakers reason to pause and consider the ramifications of armed paramilitary groups who do not answer to the government.
The bill in question allows the home guard groups to form into infantry companies. Each group would have their own uniforms, flags and identities, and would not be subject to federal oversight, but would answer to the governor who would certify each group. Warburton originally called the paramilitary groups organized militias, but changed the name to home guards because of the negative connotation associated with the term militias. The problem with any armed group is that they tend to attract anti-government extremists, and since President Obama took office, extremist groups have grown by 250% according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. These militia groups perceive the federal government as a tyrannical plot to impose one-world government on liberty-loving Americans, and politicians like Michele Bachmann have implored her constituents to be “armed and dangerous” in case the federal government attempts to enforce federal laws.
In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Explosives (ATF) attempted to serve a search warrant on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas; the ensuing 2-hour gun battle killed four ATF agents and 6 of Koresh’s followers. Koresh’s group was heavily armed and took exception to the federal government enforcing a search warrant; the 50-day siege eventually led to the destruction of the compound and deaths of seventy-six people. Koresh’s group was an anomaly in 1993, but the rise of anti-government extremism with the support of mainstream politicians is becoming a popular movement in states around the country. There are 512 Patriot groups in states such as Texas, California, Michigan, Oregon, New York and Oklahoma and other states who are also considering creating official militias with the help of right-wing extremist-friendly lawmakers leading the way.
The creation of armed paramilitary groups that are appointed by the governor will cost Montana approximately $45,000 per year, and the state is required to pay for any damage caused by the groups during active duty. The financial cost is the least of the problem because the Montana bill stipulates that the “home guard” organization would not be subject to federal oversight; they would serve the governor. Warburton claims the armed militias are meant to fill a gap left by community organizations and the National Guard, but if they are filling a need that service organizations cannot fill, one must wonder why they have to be armed, or why they will not answer to the federal government. Warburton claims the groups will answer to the governor, and yet each company will have its own identity, flag, and uniform leading one to believe they will be nothing more than roaming bands of vigilantes.
There is no reasonable excuse for any state to form its own militia except to rebel against the federal government. There are municipal police departments, county sheriffs, FEMA, National Guard units, Federal Marshalls, the FBI, and the United States Department of Defense to take care of law enforcement and national security issues. Each of the agencies follows state and federal laws as well as a well-established chain of command that will not be helped with a band of armed, anti-government extremists running around looking for a conflict with the federal government. There is also the specter of a rogue, anti-government state leader who appoints an extremist to head up a state paramilitary group like Arizona’s anti-immigrant activist Bill Davis. Davis made the news when he advertised that his militia was filled with combat veterans with legitimate kill records, and not gun-slinging citizen militiamen.
America has survived two world wars and several lesser conflicts without resorting to well-regulated militias as described in the 2nd Amendment. During the American Civil War, the Confederacy consisted of separate state militias that precipitated the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s history, so there is reason to be alarmed at states creating armed militias. Accusations by the Tea Party and many Republicans that President Obama is a tyrant who is trampling on States’ rights and individual freedom and liberty has incited racist Americans to the point of supporting armed rebellion against the federal government. Lawmakers are in a tenuous position because if they suppress gun rights activists and revolution-minded traitors, they run the risk of inciting a violent conflict that could erupt into all out civil war. Civil war sounds extreme, but in the current political climate it is a very real possibility; especially when many groups are claiming that states’ rights are being supplanted by the federal government giving rise to calls for secession by extremists.
It is hopeful that cooler heads will prevail in Montana and that Warburton’s bill will die before coming to a vote. That does not seem likely though and with gun-rights activists pushing the message that President Obama is going to take peoples’ guns away, the situation will get worse and the result will be anarchy that will lead to a bloodbath. The legislators and politicians who encourage anti-government extremism deserve be tried and convicted of treason for inciting citizens to violence against the government. A Montana gun rights proponent said, “these bills mark small steps to enfranchise anti-government thinking, and we’d like to nudge it toward anarchy.” There is little doubt why anti-government extremists want armed paramilitary militias; it is for a Civil War.