irJay" Njxon

John M.


Britl DPs

James F.


Xeathley MSHP

Van Godsey

Dtector, Mlac

MIAC Strategic


.Ianuary 9,2OO9 Modern Comrnittees of SafetY Voice of the People or Militias in Dlsguise?
lYany factors have contributed to the most recent surge in what is being perceived as extreme right wing activjq/, Issues such as the world-wide financial market meltdown, the seemingly inadequate response of the federal government to natural and man-made disasters, the terrorist threat to our society, and the djsenfranchisement of various segments of society either along racial, economic, sexual or reiigious lines, have all served to provide opportunity for response from more "activism" oriented persons and organizations nationwide. This assessment will provjde information on just one response to these issues: The Commfttees of Safety,

Early History:
Committees of Safety have existed since at

the year 1642 and orlgjnated in Britain, being created by the

BrilishParliamenttoprovjdeforthe"safetyoftheKingdom"duringthePuritanrevolution. Thesecommittees
had no defined policies; rather they were tasked with providing input to the government regarding cjvil unrest.

In the pre-Revolution American colonies, one oi the earljest known uses of the term committee of safety was during the land djsput€ (the New Hampshire Grants) betvveen the colony of New York and the people of New Hampshire. This dispute eventually resulted in sort of a mini-rebellion against New York and the creatjon of the Republic of Vermont, iater to be admitted into the Union as the state of Vermont. The Committee of Safety at that time (Ethan Allen's) was tasked with keeping order within those areas granted by New Hampshire but
claimed by New York.
As ihe Crown increased taxes within the colonies, and since the British Parliament had no direct representatjon from those colonies, there arose a movement to establish Committees of Safety, Protection, and Correspondence in order to represent colonial interests in the meetings of the local provincial governments. ]n effect, these committees acted as a government that co-existed alongside the legitimate government of the Crown Aithough these committees would eventually form the core of the representatives of the thirteen colonies that formed the Second Continental Congress, their jnitial authority was derived from the provincial conventions that met infrequently to address colonial concerns before the Crown. During the times when the provincial conventions were ;ot in session, the Committees of Safety were authorized to "keep watch over the provinces" In doing so, they were authorjzed to call out the provjncial militia. Even though the Committees of Safety initially had very limited duties, as time progressed and the British authorjty was for the most paft ignored, the Committees provjded more important seryices including judicial duties in trial proceedings, draft authorization for the militias, procuring armaments, taxation, regulation of intercolony commerce, issuance of currencies and adjudicatior of civil matters, The government of the colonies, due to British atrogance, excessive taxation, and out of Sheer necessity, became government by commjttees, This colonial government was truly one in which the people, through a layered system of committees at the township/ county, and provincial levels, governed themselves.

Modern Commiftees of Safety and thb relationship to Militias
The modern Committee of Safety may be one of two types of organjzationsr Either a group of citizens formed to .'one voice,, in addressing local or state governments, or the committee may just be a "front" organization act as for the formation of a private, paramilitary militia. Any discussion of the.legitimacy of militia activity must be prefaced by several definitions of exactly whal is a "lvliljtia"


lYilitjas in the United Sates (exclusive of the Pre-Revolutionary organizations) reached their first peak in the fvlid 1990's, At the time, mjlitia activisis justified the existence of their groups based on lang uage found in U S codes, cour-t decisions, and presumed historical "facts" gathered from a variety of sources (some reliable, some oFquestionablereljabiljty.) Thegroupsusedsomelimesconfusingwordstodescrjbetheirgroupssuchasl"Unorganized", "ConstitutionaJ", "Volunteer", "Citizen's Organized'; in an attempt to legjtimize their activities, and be vlewed as havinq compiied with both federal code and slate statute,

Forourpurposes,l4ilitiasmaybeciassifiedsimplyas"Organized",or"Unorganized". Pa( I, Seclior 311-313


Orguixut Mititi[ are the federally funded, Army and Air National Guards including some Naval militjas. There are also a few state "Defense Forces" subject to cll-out by the state governors who actually trajn periodicalJy and are uniformed bul not federally funded, lvlissouri has no state defense force and relies on a federaliy funded National Guard for emergencies.
Ilnoryanixett nilitias arc comprised of "alJ able bodied men, aged 17 to 45, who are not members of the organized lvlilitia". Several other exemptions are in pJace which exclude women, the Vice President, Postal workers, vessel captains, etc, Clearly, this description of "unorganized militia" provides a pool of eligible males in time of national emergency, Militia organizers have relied on this description of what constitutes the "Unorganjzed lr4ilitia" to justiry the forma-

tiof of private paramilitary groups, Some academics insist that these militias are not militias at all, and may not call themselves that. However for law enforcement purposes, if it is modeled on miijtary structure either in a small or large unit sense, engages in paramiljtary training, has organization and leadership of some sort, it is a militia. Academics who argue that privately funded and maintained groups calling themselves militias are not,
and therefore may not legally assume that identity must take note of the most recent Supreme Couft decision regarding interpretation of the Second Amendment,

Note that in the most re@nt SecondAmendment ase reviewby the United States Supreme Couft in the Case, District of Columbja vs. Heller, the cout provided an "originalist" decision reaffirming the intent of the framers of the Constitutjon that the ianguage ofthe Second Amendment "a well-regulated militia" describes both the organized and unorganized mjljtia whether federally-funded, subject to Congress, or citizen-organized. In this decision the court lreld; The "militia" compri#d att males physicaily apabte of acting in &n@rt for the common defense' The AntifedentisE feared that the Federat Government would disam the people in ofder to disable this citizens'militia, enabling a potiticized standing amy or a select militia to rule' The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient tight of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens' militia woutd be prererved, (cornell Ltnivercity school of Law syllabus of the District of Columbia vs, Heller Decigion, June 26/ 2oOB)

JusUcescaliatopjnion(inpaft)reads "the"militia"incolonialAmeia@nsistedofasubsetof"the people'Lthose who were mate/ able bodie4 and within a @rtain age range' Reading the second Amendment as proteLting onty the right to "keep and bear Arms" in an organized militia thefefore frts poorty with the operative clauseb description of the holder of that right as "the people't (Justice Scalia Opinion District of Columbia vs. Heller)
Considering the definitions of a "f4ilitia" in U,S. Code and the most recent Supreme Court decisjon, it is clear that citjzen-formed miljtias are a constitutionally protected activity as defined in both the prefatory, " A well regulated

right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."


While the opinions may seem to legitimize a citizen-organized militia, jt is also the courl's opinion that the Second Amendment does not protect this riqht of citizens forjust any soft of confrontation. The militia movement has had a history of violence and intimidation, many times advocatjng, arming, and training for confrontation simply for the sake of creating civii unrest. Although militia leadership may advocate complete iaw abiding compliance, in many mses individuals are drawn to this movement only for the sake of confrontation with federal and state authorities, Law enforcement's ability to document this behavior and rhetoric is critiGl,




Therefore, given the status of the legitjmacy of the "l\4ilitia" movement, the historical documentation of the lawlessness that has accompanjed the movement, and the close inteLrelationship of the modern-day Committees of Safety with unorganized miJitia units, il is wofthwhile to examine that relationship on an individual basis.

Committees of Safety in Missouri

Fjrst and Second Amendment-protected activities and organizations of this kind have a history of being infiltrated and influenced by those individuals who are truiy extremist. That is, persons who are willing to kill, or be killed for issues as trivial as the right of the states to issue drivert licenses. Even now/ early in the formation of this movement, there is rhetoric and reference to self-appointed "Common Law" Grand Jury activity being leg'timate, That being the case, there is already an jndjcation that e\tremism is alive and well within the Committees of Safety, Given the fouJ reputation the militia movement has with the general public, their leadership may use the Committee of Safetv as a front.

The challenqe for law enforcement agencies is to determine whether their respective Committees of Safety are in actuality militia suppoft mechanisms, and whether or not the militia they are, or support is subversive or violent in nature. Offrcers have a further challenge of determining the extent of extremist infiltration into Committees of Safety, all the while bearing the addjtional responsibility to ensure that the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, assembly, and redress of grievances is protected
Sources of information for this document include: The Provincial Committees of Safeb/ by Agnes Hunt Ph -The IYilitia Watchdoo website,


The Cornell University School of Law The Library of Congress Majodty Opinion United States Supreme Court District of Columbia vs Heller Revoluuonary War Archives The Committee of Safety Support Websites including;



ffima8wsEs @emner
lVlO 651 02-0568
khnet n Mhc6d b hw entffienent

Divlsion of Drug & Crime Contol, P.
At trhmrlilconlzined

O Box 568, Jefferson City,

kh rsvshdr snoub be ctuMd LAfl ENFffiCffiNt SENsttW Fnd a^drggrchs'hh@EragdesadDNpafu6nlalDdhnsEoIgxnn'tiffiofu'ufussw4lovdh6hkedlnnhe

Phone: 573-751-6422 TollFree: 866-362'6422 Fax: 573-751'9950




Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful