In Idaho, a Militia Trains ... for What?

PHOTO Three members of the North Idaho Lightfoot Militia are shown in this file photo.

They are not police officers. They are not active-duty soldiers. But what a group of weekend warriors is doing with guns in the woods not far from the Canadian border is perfectly legal.

"Nightline" visited a recent Saturday training session of the 21st Battalion of North Idaho's Lightfoot Militia -- a heavily armed force that, we're told, numbers more than 100. Just about a dozen showed up on the Saturday we did.

VIDEO: From health care to the economy, militia worries about government dictatorship.

Along with an awful lot of shooting, they learn survival skills and take first-aid lessons from one of their members, who's also a firefighter.

Watch the full story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET

Their leader is "Major" Jeff Stankiewicz, an unemployed welder with zero military experience.

"The government should be afraid of its people so that it doesn't do stuff it's not supposed to do," Stankiewicz told "Nightline." "It would make them think twice."

Randall Klein is one of the newest members of the militia. He joined about a month ago after losing his job.

We asked Klein what he's worried about.

"It's not about Barack Obama, but certainly he's gotten me worried and not just him... Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest," said Klein. "I mean, obviously to me, they want to become dictators of the United States. I think that's why they are going on this health care kick and probably trying to bankrupt the country, so they can do their socialist totalitarian dictatorship."

These men -- and a few women -- are the new faces of this country's militia movement. Their numbers have exploded in the past year. Some chalk it up to the recession. Others say the surge in militias is largely because of the election of the first black president.

Those who track militias say they all but disappeared over the last decade. The militias of the 1990s were inspired by the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in which federal agents shot and killed the wife of white supremacist Randy Weaver; and by the government's 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in which 80 people were killed, including 20 children.

Timothy McVeigh said both events inspired his 1995 attack on the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, in which 168 people were killed. McVeigh's co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, was a member of a Michigan militia.

Militia: 'Second Amendment Issues'

The militias of today still fear their government. But they worry more about a federal takeover of the health care system or the collapse of the economy than about black helicopters and armed agents. We sat down with a few members of the Idaho militia to try to understand their motivations.

"I started off handing out flyers to get our first meeting going," said Stankiewicz. "It was a year ago. It was April 15th, at the first Tea Party rallies. ... Now's the time to start coming together, and I thought, well, if this isn't a good time then there isn't one, and if we don't start preparing now it might be too late. You never what's coming around the corner."

These men do at least share one value with the militiamen of the past: belief in the right to bear arms.

"Second amendment issues," said Stankiewicz. "I believe that's the most important of the amendments. The Soviet constitution had the right to freedom of speech and the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of the press. They didn't have the right to bear arms."

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...