R.J. Larizza

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As this country rushes towards the twenty first century, a growing cloud of civil unrest has found its way into the hearts of many Americans. In a bold move to challenge the power of the federal government, a significant number of American citizens have sought refuge from perceived government injustice by forming citizen militias. These self styled militia groups fear that the liberties guaranteed by the United States Constitution are rapidly evaporating in the wake of a federal government that has grown too large and powerful. For example, while addressing the Senate Subcommittee on terrorism, Norman Olson (Commander of the Michigan Regional Militias) characterized the federal government as the "child of the armed citizen" and stated that "[t]he increasing amount of federal encroachment into our lives indicates the need for parental corrective action." While Olson and other militia activists claim as their purpose restoration of the republican form of government envisioned by the founding fathers, the tragic bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City has called their methods into question. Conversely, citizen militia groups have denounced the bombing and deny any involvement in the event. In response to the bombing and other alleged acts of violence, two congressional hearings have been conducted in an effort to gather information on the citizen militia movement to determine if they pose a criminal threat to our society. Furthermore, several bills have been proposed to prohibit the formation of citizen militias. Finally, several states have enacted laws that regulate or otherwise prohibit the formation of citizen militias, training associated with militia activities, and the participation in such training activities. ...

The first portion of this Comment will focus on the organization, philosophy, purpose, and activities of the various citizen militias. This background information is necessary to identify the constitutional arguments in support of the movement's continued existence. The second portion of this Comment will identify and discuss state and federal laws prohibiting the formation of citizen militia groups. Pending federal legislation will also be discussed. The third portion will consist of a general summary of the conclusions reached regarding the constitutional implications of laws designed to prohibit the activities of citizen militia groups.