Last week, the federal government arrested several members of a Midwest militia who allegedly planned to kill a Michigan police officer, then wreak havoc at his funeral by attacking those who attended. Their goal? To jump start a war against the federal government. While these individuals are in custody and will soon have their day in court, the danger that groups like them present is far from over. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups, the number of radical extremist groups has tripled over the last year. The government must dedicate resources to monitoring such activities and work to keep citizens safe.
Over the last several decades, militias have been known to carry out paramilitary training in rural areas; they train their members so that they are ready to engage in war. Many of these groups hold true an extreme ideology, whether it be White supremacist or anti-government; oftentimes, these views are based on some twisted idea of Christianity. Domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma where 168 people were killed, and others have expressed similar viewpoints and, at one point or another, aligned themselves with these radical groups. If the government put more energy into monitoring the activities of the members, violence could be prevented.
This is not a call for the government to infringe on the rights of individuals to gather and express their views. Rather, the government needs to correctly identify organizations that pose a real threat to the safety of the people. We want our leaders to focus their energies on legitimate domestic terrorists and work to put an end to their violent plans.
Additionally, the government must address the factors that foster hate and allow such groups to thrive. Economic depression, easy access to weapons in certain areas of the country and lack of understanding of different cultures, races and religions all play a part. Elected officials certainly cannot control or impact all of these but job creation, community-based diversity and sensitivity training and real gun control laws can help.
In this recent case, the government intervened in time and saved lives. If efforts are made to stop the growth of these extremist groups, we may not have such a close call in the future.