So the other day, I get a comment submitted to the site expressing some positive feedback and inviting me to check out the website of the militia group that the poster belongs to. The poster also suggested that I consider joining.
Now as flattered as I am, I have to assume that he hasn't read my previous postings regarding militias and militia members. But since the request was polite and didn't scream “lunatic” like many of the comments that I've gotten from members of the militia movement in the past, I took a look at their website, first by myself and then a bit later with Nicki, herself a former member of the United States Armed Forces.
We basically decided that they seem like a harmless and essentially well-intentioned bunch as they model their store-bought camouflage and Load-Bearing Equipment (LBE) and discuss the relative attributes of their armaments, much of which appears to be foreign WW2-surplus that fires obsolete ammunition. They also post pictures of their “survival” or “Bug Out Vehicles”, many of which seem to be 1980's-vintage Chevrolet Suburbans or even older pick-up trucks, most of which get about 6 miles to the gallon and all of which undoubtedly have way too many miles and years on them to be even marginally reliable in a crisis. They also talk about “patrolling” their neighborhoods and preparing to do battle with terrorists and looters.
But seriously—if it's how these guys have fun, who am I to judge? I personally don't subscribe to the “militia” mindset or dream of the day when I will spot a “terrorist” somewhere—no doubt decked out in traditional islamist garb and carrying an AK-47 and a bomb as he skulks down the street—but I'm all about self-sufficiency and preparation for bad times, and I'm a firm advocate in fitness and relevant skills training of all sorts for practically everyone, so I applaud these guys for at least going that far. And to their further credit, I was unable to find any obvious anti-government or anti-law-enforcement stuff on their website, unlike on most militia websites and even most “mainstream” gun-related forums that I've seen.
Eventually I marked them “mostly harmless” and went on about my business, intending on just letting it pass. But then last night I saw another comment posted here. This one said that the poster agreed that BATFE is doing right by enforcing laws against gun criminals who supply guys to the drug cartels but believes that regular citizens should be able to enforce those laws too and that his group “actively works with local police forces and some of which support us. [sic]” He then went on to challenge me to stop by and check their site out “if you really are as patriotic as you say.”
Ah. So now unless I go back and look at their site some more, I'm not patriotic. Well to be fair, that didn't really spur me to any further review of their site or motivate me to join their group, but the claim that they allegedly work with local police forces (some of which supposedly support them) caused me to loudly call “BS”. I can guarantee you that there is not a police department anywhere in this country whose chief has ever said “Hey, I think that I'll grant law enforcement authority to Bob's Militia so that they can cruise around in their old Suburbans all decked out like extras from a straight-to-video war movie and arrest people.”
Sorry guys. It's never happened in America and it never will happen. Not ever.
Reading their website, it's obvious that they dream of taking on law enforcement functions and battling terrorists and other criminals here in America because they believe that somehow, they are more “legitimate” in this role than our regular and reserve military forces who, last I checked, were all better trained and equipped and just as patriotic as anyone.
OK, that bit of silliness aside, I do commend their desire to do something helpful in the time of crisis. However I think that they should probably devote their time and efforts into volunteering in a meaningful capacity, perhaps by joining an outfit like the Red Cross or some similar established disaster-response outfit. Yes I know that handing out bottled water and food to refugees is a lot less glamorous that sauntering around with an old rifle and pretending to be The Law, but it's actually realistic, and to be fair, it's exactly what the National Guard and Army Reserve units that were sent to Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina did.
Fact is, in any sort of calamity requiring a large-scale assistance effort, law enforcement will be handled by the Guard's military police units and by local agencies with their sworn personnel and reserves, bolstered by other sworn law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions if need be, just as we saw taking place during Katrina. You'll notice that during Katrina, police officers from all over the country were brought in to help but at no time did anyone at FEMA or in the Louisiana government ever get on the phone and ring up Thibodeux's Militia to see if a few guys who had no training and hadn't undergone any sort of background check might be available to run around New Orleans with rifles as a substitute for the real police. Sorry guys. I know that you're expecting to be asked/begged/allowed to do this the next time that a major catastrophe happens but you won't be.
So that said, I would suggest that if you really want to be part of the solution the next time help is needed, that you contact the Red Cross or some similar disaster preparedness group and ask them how you can help. Drop this idea that you're going to step in as some sort of armed paramilitary outfit and operate autonomously with police powers. That's not going to happen. If you really want to be the police or the military, then go through a police academy and join a real police department, or enlist. But if that's not an option, then you're pretty much restricted to helping the existing emergency groups in an unarmed capacity. It may not be as “cool” in your eyes, but it's still important and badly needed, and if you're really serious about wanting to help your communities and your fellow citizens, you'll sign on and start training with your local emergency preparedness organizations. Heck, you might even find that it's more satisfying and fun than playing toy solider.