Armed militias have been gaining traction in the US in recent years but should trust be put in the hands of armed renegades to uphold the Constitution?
The United States is widely known for their love of the military. The country’s lavish spending on weapons and new military technology is staggering in comparison to other facets when budgeting a nation. In the previous fiscal year of 2015 alone, the total federal spending on the military was approximately $640 billion. This made up over half of the government’s total spending. America has by far the largest military in the world, spending more money on defence than the next ten highest spending countries combined. This is caused in part by the military industrial complex, but in other part by a strong military culture that is embedded in the American psyche.
Think back to the year 1775, during the time of the American Revolution where Paul Revere legendarily rode through Massachusetts to notify the Patriot militias to defend America’s freedom from British domination. These events and those that followed helped lay the foundation and sentiment of the American Constitution. The right to bear arms and form militias in times of oppression was firmly written under the Second Amendment. But when one removes the interconnectedness of the government from their military, what are you left with? Small, rogue-like militias or rather, underground ‘renegades’ waiting their turn to fight for their ideas and beliefs.
So where does that leave us today? Due to the intricacies of laws passed by Congress it’s often difficult to discern where citizens of the United States stand when it comes to owning firearms and other forms of weaponry, let alone the formation of armed forces. As times become more trying—the rise of mass shootings and the gun control debate is gaining critical attention, along with the ominous threat of terrorism; the slow erasure of Constitutional law seems likely. As the US presidential race heats up, candidates pledge to address gun violence through further regulation only further serves this purpose.
Nonetheless, scattered all throughout the country are a variety of privately organised militias with groups representative of every class, gender, ethnicity, and religion imaginable. These militias simultaneously pledge to defend the Constitution (as they deem fit) and civilian rights if Congress and/or the government challenge the sanctity of law. As tensions continue to rise, one question remains: What is the tipping point for these militias to take action?
Whilst most armed militias share similar ideologies, the majority of such groups border a right-wing extremist agenda that stands counter to America’s democratic underpinning. Six years ago, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division released an assessment of far-right extremism present in America. The classified report was almost immediately leaked, concluded that ‘lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the US.’ You can access the full report here.
Many more believe the recent revival of extremist militias be held responsible for influencing lone assassins in the mass killings of innocent civilians. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a total of 784 hate groups and right-wing extremists were documented in 2014. In 2009, the SPLC reported right wing extremist activity to have risen 250 in the wake of President Obama’s inauguration. But extremism runs in both directions, several left-wing extremist groups have openly committed acts of terrorism in an attempt to dismantle the workings of America’s capitalistic system.
Whether the agenda is conservative or liberal—terrorism is more often the by-product of their work as opposed to their aspired implementation of a self-governing society. The growing organisation of armed militias should be regarded with concern as circumstances surrounding gun control, police brutality, and violence reach new heights. While the Constitution protects citizens’ rights to organise and oppose a government that threatens the fabric of democracy, no individual should be at risk of loosing their life.