Militias and Me

Quick nod to current events—some cattlemen in Nevada have made headlines lately in protesting the acquisition of their property by the Bureau of Land Management. As I understand it, the BLM is claiming the land—which the cattlemen have grazed and lived on for over a century—for conservation purposes. The cattlemen believe the BLM is overstepping its authority, and doesn’t have the right to the land. The cattlemen have threatened to defend their land with firearms and their lives, if need be. Tensions escalated to a standoff in which no shots were fired and the BLM backed down.

Which brings me to my thoughts. Several state militias were mustered in support of the cattlemen, including the Arizona State Militia. They did not engage; they provided recon assistance and support by their presence. Just so we’re clear—militias are not affiliated with the United States military. They are not members of the armed forces. They are not the National Guard. They are not Reserves. They are simply volunteer, paramilitary organizations. In some cases they are sanctioned by the state government, but in many cases operate independently. They receive funding largely from private parties, and members typically supply their own gear (including firearms). They run trainings for emergency preparedness scenarios (providing aid for natural disasters), wilderness survival, and yes, basic combat operations.

Like many Americans, I share a somewhat romantic view of militias. I see the founding fathers. I see skills and service. I see honor and courage. I see the defense of home and family, of conviction and order.

On the other hand, I can also see how militias can easily devolve into militant gangs, vigilante radicals, and oppressive regimes. They are not always led by George Washingtons, and they are not always comprised of Davy Crocketts.

For a moment, let’s pretend I have three hands.  On the other other hand, in the event of an environmental emergency or collapse of freedom or violation of security, I’d align myself primarily with the Church. I’d follow it’s cues. If it said, support the government, then show me the way to the recruiting office. If it said, meet at the stake center to unload some welfare trucks, then there I’ll be. If it said, sit tight and ration your food storage, then it looks like we’ll be cookin’ beans. If it said, circle the wagons and reform the Mormon Battalion, then here’s my gun.

Would I like to participate in the trainings that militias offer? Yes, I think so. Will they really offer that much more regarding survival skills than what I’ve already gained as an Eagle Scout, or that I couldn’t pick up on my own? Probably not. Are they more organized—better capable of mobilizing in emergencies—than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Definitely not. Am I hesitant of joining the right-wing extremist nut-jobs that I’d invariably find scattered among a citizen militia’s ranks? You betcha.

Thus for me—at this time and in this place—the cons of militias outweigh the pros.

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