There is historical basis and precedence for militia. Our forefathers even went so far to plan for the need of a “well-regulated Militia” and outlined this in our Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights. Their reasoning in my, and countless others minds, was that a militia could one day be “necessary to the security of a free State”. The militia concept was preferable to a standing Army which many of our founders were vehemently opposed to.
For example, James Madison said:
In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.
Simply put, we might need our own defensive forces to step in to defend us in dire circumstances. Each state used to be responsible for their own militias. State Militias still exist, but they are nothing like the forces they once were, they are rare and most people think the National Guard has taken their place.
This article isn’t an argument about the Second Amendment, or a dissection of those words our founders sacrificed so much for. The common expression of Militias today exist as a symbol largely that has been used by people on both sides of the argument over whether Militias are necessary or unneeded relics that should be confined to history.
One side of this argument almost universally depicts any group that calls themselves a Militia as radical, violent, racist and bent on overthrowing the government. The other side largely views the role of a militia as some bulwark against a rising fear of tyranny. The question on my mind started largely with a simple question that one of our readers posed a while back. Should you join a militia?
What is a militia?
Dictionary.com defines the word militia as the following:
A body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full-time only in emergencies.
State Militias are the state defensive forces or they used to be however, I think what most people think of when they hear the word Militia are small groups of patriots that get together on weekends and practice military tactics. About 20 states have what are called State Guard and we have even had an article by Keith Pounds on the Prepper Journal explaining the advantages of the State Guards to facilitate regular offices in times of disaster. State guards or militias often help in the community with building projects and blood drives. But I don’t think any of our readers considers passing out water to people impacted by natural disasters as the types of duties and responsibilities of a militia.
Most of the people I run into are talking about militias from the standpoint of a defense against government or terrorism. They are looking for a way to join a group of people who proclaim they are committed to an ideal and in pursuit of that ideal, are taking steps to get ready for a physical confrontation that may one day be necessary. People from all walks of life are joining militias not to pass out water, or survival blankets, but because they feel they will need to employee military tactics to repel an invasion on some front.
Militias aren’t unique to the United States by any stretch of the imagination. Almost every country has some form of militia.
What are some reasons why you should want to join a militia?
On its face, joining a militia seems like a great way to meet others with similar interests, learn skills needed in combat and practice these skills with a group. Many militia groups proclaim to have strict membership requirements and force their members to go through a background screening process but we can’t really ascertain how stringent this process is because each group is vastly different. I do know that there are a lot of people who call themselves militia and they behave in ways that invite unwanted suspicion.
The Hutaree militia was famously arrested in 2010 for the suspicion that they were going to commit a crime. This was brought to life by an FBI informant who had infiltrated the group. They were eventually released and cleared of all charges, presumably because they were completely innocent, except for possession of automatic weapons. Unfortunately, there is a long history of the FBI infiltrating groups and provoking people to acts they probably wouldn’t have even considered absent the influence of FBI agitators.
So let’s lay out a hypothetical scenario. You are an average guy who worries about the way things are heading or maybe you just want to be involved with a group who will defend others if necessary. You believe that the idea of joining a militia force will surround you with a lot of ex-military veterans who are training and practicing for those what-if plans you have been making with your family. You also feel that being included in a larger group like this will help you survive if the SHTF so you start looking around for a militia group in your area.
Finding a militia group isn’t really that hard. There are lists of groups all over the place and many have their own websites you can go and learn more about the group, see pictures of them crouched in the woods and getting CPR training. Let’s say you find a local group of guys who call themselves militia and are considering meeting up with them.
Should you join a militia?
There are many fine upstanding, professional groups of people who belong to an organized militia, but no matter how well run, by the simple fact they are calling themselves a militia, I believe you need to ask yourself some questions before jumping in and possibly making a decision you regret.
Questions to ask yourself before joining a militia:
Why do I want to join a militia? – Have you really given this a lot of thought? No matter which group you join, if they are active on the internet in any capacity and they have the words militia associated with their actions, you will be under scrutiny to some degree. This could be from the SPLC Hatewatch website or the FBI. Do you want to potentially face questioning by the FBI for your affiliations? Are you joining because you are angry or scared? Does fear drive your decision to seek out this group? Are you simply looking for fun?
Does this militia group publicly and privately exhibit the values I have personally? – This is only appropriate if you have good values that you wouldn’t want compromised. Not that all groups or even most have ethical problems. I assume most are very upstanding. Do their words and actions match with your standards of conduct or do you find yourself changing your opinion to fit into their style of communication?
Is this group open or are the details around it secretive? – If this militia group has a public facing website where you can access a lot of information about what they believe and what they do, you likely will face fewer surprises. If you can only really guess at what their principles are and why they are together, this will be worth additional research into the group.
What is the background of the members? – Are these ex-military group members or regular people who just feel compelled to act and are leaning on the liberties we still have? If there are former military, what did they do in the service? How long did they serve and where? Why did they get out? Are the group members in good shape or do some have physical impairments or are grossly overweight? Are these people a bunch of Special Forces wannabees who have all of the gear and none of the maturity? Do you feel comfortable around them with firearms?
What do they talk about on their own social media pages or in conversations? – You can tell a lot about a person by what they post on Facebook. Have you researched the group’s old posts? What have they linked to? Do the members’ pages have questionable material on there? Are conversations with the members rooted in conspiracy (not that there is anything wrong with that) and fear or is the dialog focused on improvement, camaraderie and assistance?
Would you feel comfortable bringing your family to a meeting? – What kind of vibe do you get off the group? Would you feel comfortable bringing your wife and smaller children around or is this a big boys type of club only? Not that there is anything wrong with this, but if you are called into action with this group would you trust them implicitly with your family’s safety? What does your gut say?
Could your association with this group come back to haunt you if things don’t work out? – We talk about OPSEC all of the time on prepper blogs like the Prepper Journal. What information have you shared with this group of armed, trained individuals that could possibly harm you if it was used against you? Could this group be infiltrated by someone trying to incite hate or violence? Has it already? Can you leave easily with no strings attached if membership ceases to be comfortable?
Alternatives to joining a militia
For me personally, I think there are a lot of downsides to joining a “militia group”. I say that while fully acknowledging that I believe most are perfectly honest and serious groups of people who are trying to make a difference. For me, the name and association with bad types of people I can’t really control, would make joining another group like this something I would only consider with the perfect set of circumstances.
That doesn’t mean I think there are no good ways to meet and grow groups of like-minded friends who do the same thing militias do. I still fully support my rights as a citizen and the oath I took when I joined the service many years ago. I would rather start with my friend or two friends. We can meet and practice any skills that a militia can, with the advantage of not having any baggage that goes along with it. We don’t need a Facebook page and pictures of us wading through a corn field in camouflage with our rifles up, ready to fire. Our group can meet regularly, develop our own preparedness plans, and train in areas we need to be able to defend our families, our local region or state if required.
Instead of joining an existing militia I would first try to start my own group with people I know and trust. Rather than looking on the internet for people who say they think like I do, I would try to engage people already in my circle of acquaintances. Your family and friends might be a better place to start than Facebook.
I do believe in the idea of militias and fully appreciate the vital and necessary role they have played and may play again in defending our country. Any association with a group that has this particular purpose at its founding should be taken with the gravest sense of restraint and maturity. A militia is designed for serious business, not playing Army in the woods. Their purpose is meant to deal with non-trivial actions that essentially mean life or death decisions for themselves and people they are protecting. With this in mind, I think they are worth a little more scrutiny and care if you want to make a wise decision.
What do you think? Would you join a militia?