Column: When ‘militia’ is a loaded word

Militias are in the news after last week’s events in Michigan. Members of the "Wolverine Watchmen" were among those arrested in the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Merriam-Webster lists this as its third definition of militia: a private group of armed individuals that operates as a paramilitary force and is typically motivated by a political or religious ideology (specifically: such a group that aims to defend individual rights against government authority that is perceived as oppressive). Discussion of militias inevitably gets caught up in the never-ending debate about the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which states: 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. But my purpose here is not to discuss gun rights, but rather the word militia. Arguably the framers of the Constitution didn’t anticipate the military of today. And it is easy to see how gun rights and militias get intertwined. But the use of "militia" to describe the men accused Thursday in an alleged plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer seems out of date. Militias, according to all the reporting I have read over the last several years, come in various sizes and shapes. Some are just guys roaming around the woods shooting their rifles. All have a distrust of government and authority, and a few pursue that distrust to violent extremes. The Southern Poverty Law Center last year identified 576 "extreme antigovernment groups" in […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.