Analysis: Right Wing Militia Fanatic
Technically, the Ruby Ridge, Waco and Oklahoma City incidents did not involve actual militias per se, though the movement's rallying around these events, as well as the political views of some of the people involved, created a lot of confusion in the matter. This page is to clear up the misconceptions about what had happened. The main people involved in the Ruby Ridge were a family of survivalists led by one Randy Weaver, a former Green Beret and factory worker who, in 1983, moved with his family to a cabin in isolated Boundary County in northern Idaho in order to escape from what they saw as the corruption of the modern world. Here, he got involved in an assortment of far-right causes, including the "sovereign citizen"note and tax protest movements, and started refusing to pay his taxes. His wife Vicki, meanwhile, sent threatening letters to then-President Ronald Reagan and the IRS, addressed to the "Queen of Babylon". After he sold a pair of illegal sawed off shotguns to an undercover ATFnote agent, a clerical error in the letter telling him when he was to arrive in court (the letter said his trial was to begin on March 20, 1991, but actually, it was to begin on February 20) led to him becoming a wanted fugitive by accident. Mistaking government incompetence for proof that they were out to get him, he hunkered down with his family for over a year, leading to a siege that lasted from August 21-30, 1992 and resulted in the death of Weaver's wife Vicki, his son Samuel, and a US Marshal. More info can be found here. The Waco compound, meanwhile, was run by the Branch Davidians, a cultish, apocalyptic-minded splinter of the Seventh Day Adventists. They were led by one David Koresh (born Vernon Wayne Howell), a heretical Christian who proclaimed himself a Messianic Archetype and amassed large collections of both women (some of whom may have been... aw, who are we kidding, they were underage) and automatic weapons at his compound, the Mount Carmel Center outside Waco, Texas. It was the guns that got the attention of the ATF, who tried to conduct a raid on the compound, but after the Branch Davidians were tipped off to the raid by the media, they took up defensive positions and, when the ATF tried to serve their warrant, opened fire. With four dead ATF agents on their hands, the FBI put the Branch Davidian compound under siege for 51 days starting February 28, 1993, before finally trying to storm the compound on April 19 with tear gas and a tank-mounted battering ram. Unfortunately for the ATF, the Branch Davidians interpreted the siege of their compound not as a law enforcement action, but rather as the beginning of the end times, and thus fought tooth and claw against them and booby-trapped their compound, spreading gasoline and other flammable materials around. When the Branch Davidian set fires to hold off the ATF agents (and possibly deliberately kill themselves; their motives in doing so will never be known for certain, as everyone involved died), Koresh and 75 of the compound's other inhabitants died. As before, more info can be found here. Lastly, Oklahoma City perpetrator Timothy McVeigh did have connections to militia members and subscribed to extreme right-wing causes, but was never part of a militia himself, and worked with only a couple of other people, though there is some speculation that he received additional help beyond his co-conspirators. He also had some beliefs more in line with the Left, such as believing that the USA's foreign policy was "imperialist." He was a Gulf War veteran who wanted to join the Green Berets, but was rejected when his psych profile declared him unsuitable, and he left the military not long after. He viewed the government as a bully, particularly in the wake of the aforementioned Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents, and timed his bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the end of the Waco siege. The militia movement claimed these events, as well as such things as the Assault Weapons Ban and the Brady Bill, as supposed proof that the government (specifically, the center-left government of Bill Clinton) was an Always Chaotic Evil force that wanted to destroy their way of life. Militia membership reached its peak in 1996, three years after Waco, though it would decline after that due to a confluence of reasons. The big one was perceived violence within the movement scaring away the more moderate members — in addition to Oklahoma City, groups like the Montana Freemen and the Republic of Texas (a secessionist group claiming that the US had never legally annexed Texas) gave the movement plenty of bad press through their confrontations with law enforcement, as did "lone nuts" like Eric Robert Rudolph (who bombed two abortion clinics, a gay bar and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics) and the "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski (mistakenly believed to be a right-wing militant until he published his anti-technology manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future). Militias died down after the surge in patriotism that accompanied 9/11 (although some of the more radical groups contended that the whole thing was an inside job), as well as Clinton's replacement with a supposedly right-wing president, but the last couple of years have seen militia membership surge to levels not seen since The '90s. Most of this has been attributed to a bad economy, increased "security" such as the Patriot Act over the past decade, the election of an African-American Democratic President and anger over health care reform and immigration. They are seen in many different ways by different Americans, considered evil by some, but right by others. Disagreements even rage within their own number: a great many follow libertarian or traditionalist ideals, opposing the unnecessary violence and edgy attitude of the Neo-Nazis, while many others embrace them. The majority of the militiamen do not actively engage in terrorist activity (though they do occasionally make displays of force, such as showing up to protest things while openly carrying firearms), but rather believe that they are preparing themselves for if and when the government turns on them. They are frequently associated with the Sovereign Citizen movement noted above, and there is considerable overlap between the groups, with many so-called Sovereign Citizens having ties to militia groups and vice-versa. Many Crazy Survivalists are also sympathetic towards the militia movement, and many Conspiracy Theorists have links to the militia movement.