The rising danger of militias


Getty Images

A man stands outside with a gun strapped onto his back.

By Parker Otto

After the verdict of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse was announced, public opinion of the case has been divisive. Regardless of how you feel about the verdict, it’s clear that Americans have a problem with taking the law into their own hands. One of the biggest culprits is a modern militia movement that has created terrorists and civil unrest through radicalization and paranoia.

There are currently 566 extremist anti-government movements in the United States, with 169 of them being militias, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Militias are at the very core of American history. Before the formation of the Continental Army, militias were formed to fight the British. In the early days of America, rebellions like Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion tried to violently change the new American government. 

One could even make the argument that the Confederacy was acting as a larger, well-organized militia during the Civil War since they were seen by the United States as rebels and not a legitimate nation. 

While some left-leaning militias exist in the United States, most notably the Black Guerilla Family, many of America’s most organized and dangerous radical militias are far-right and anti-government.

Within the past few decades, this radical nature has become even more dangerous, with the 1993 Waco Seige, the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Bombings all being perpetrated by anti-government radicals aligned with militias. All of these acts were designed to, in some way, get the attention of the American government and shake people’s trust in the United States, according to the FBI.

Flash forward to the present day. Kyle Rittenhouse was on trial for killing two people while he was in Kenosha, WI, defending a car dealership with an illegally bought weapon. At the trial for the killers of Ahmaud Arbery, militias were present to antagonize the defendants. 

Many of these radical movements came to a head when groups like the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and the Proud Boys all took part in the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Throughout this strange time, I have noticed that thousands of people have deluded themselves that they can become vigilantes for the sake of promoting their own ideas.

You cannot take it upon yourself to become the law. We have a system to defend the Constitution that we can all take part in through running for office, working for various law enforcement offices and with our vote. While this system is, in many ways, unfairly biased, it needs to be fixed, not abandoned for violence and unrelenting anarchy.

Thankfully, the current Congress and the Biden administration are recognizing the severity of these movements. Several radical groups have been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack, including the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Several leaders of these groups have been requested to testify by mid-December, according to a subpoena for Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the Proud Boys.

But the local, state and federal governments must take it upon themselves to infiltrate these radical militias and prevent further acts of terrorism. Through undercover work, law enforcement must assess potential risk and, if necessary, take action to prevent future acts of terror. Jan. 6 was most likely the beginning. 

As militias, many of these groups are trained in weaponry and are capable of both defending themselves and acting on the offensive. If possible terrorist attacks aren’t stopped, there’s no telling what might happen.