Militia membership is reportedly on the rise

June 18, 1995|By New York Times News Service

The apparent link between the two men charged in the bombing in Oklahoma City and paramilitary groups has attracted membership in such organizations rather than discouraged it, a new report by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith says.

The report, "Beyond the Bombing: The Militia Menace Grows," concludes that while some paramilitary groups have lost membership since the April 19 bombing, which killed 167 people, "gains plainly appear to outweigh losses."

"Our impression is contrary to what would be the normal response to an act so terrible and horrific: that people would shy away," Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's national director, said in an interview.

"What we've seen is that some of the militia members and institutions have come to life, inspired and invigorated. That's troubling."

The report is the second in eight months released by the league that tries to gauge the strength and threat of paramilitary groups, which strongly oppose any form of gun control and government authority in general.

The previous report, "Armed and Dangerous: Militias Take Aim at the Federal Government," concluded that the groups operated in 13 states.

But the new report, based on anecdotal information and local police reports collected by the league's 28 regional offices, found that paramilitary groups were in at least 40 states, an estimate generally supported by federal law-enforcement agencies.

Unlike the previous report, which offered no estimates of total membership, the latest found that the groups had as many as 15,000 members.

But that estimate exists in a relative vacuum.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms say they have been unable to quantify the movement's size, and leaders of the paramilitary groups assert that the nationwide membership has grown to millions.

In tracking the growth of paramilitary groups since the Oklahoma City bombing, the report singled out California as a state in which membership in paramilitary groups has swelled as a result of the bombing.

The only states in which the report did not find paramilitary group activity were Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Vermont.

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