A few days ago, before a militia led by Ammon Bundy occupied a federal wildlife preserve building in Eastern Oregon, Michael Grove posted a video to YouTube explaining why he and fellow members of the Pennsylvania State Militia train like soldiers to be able to maintain the “rule of law.”  

“If we ever stand up…when we stand up it’s not a bunch of random hillbilly whackos showing up,” Grove said. “It’s your local heroes showing up and saying enough is enough.”   

Yes, Oregon isn’t the only state with organized groups of gun-lovers that share their suspicion of the federal government via social media. The Pennsylvania State Militia is one of many militias here. Our state, according an Associated Press article from 2004, was experiencing growth in militias, along with nearby states Ohio and Michigan, at a time when this type of organization was dying out most everywhere else. In 2013, Pennsylvania even saw a militia action not unlike what’s been happening in Eastern Oregon since Saturday. A police officer and militia leader in tiny Gilberton Borough (Schuylkill County) released a YouTube video profanely condemning John Kerry and the federal government. At a hearing at which his job security was discussed, he called for militia members to come and about 100 did, many of them with guns.

All it takes is a quick scan of the internet to find more than a dozen Pennsylvania militias and their beliefs. Most of them are in Northeast, Central or Western Pennsylvania. The Southeast Pennsylvania State Militia has a closed Facebook group but describes itself as “a peaceful group that realizes that things are going down hill fast. We are here to set up communication with each other, prepare for worst case scenario and protect ourselves at all costs.”

The Pennsylvania Lightfoot Militia has units throughout the state. 

People who join the militias usually pay a membership fee and have meetings and training sessions, mainly focusing on shooting and first aid. The Pennsylvania State Militia actually has different rankings within the militia and different positions, with members specializing in areas like medicine, security or radio communications.

The training, according to Grove’s speech, is for the possibility of defending the Bill of Rights if the government breaks down. Their political beliefs can be described as conservative.

“We were organized from the very beginning to take the wind out of the sails of the liberal left,” he said.

The 100th Western Pennsylvania Militia has more of a local goal: “The cause of the Wolf Creek Rangers is freedom from the corruption of Harrisburg and the centralization power building of the federal government….We are alive and awaiting the day when freedom loving Pennsylvanians awaken to once again take up the banner of truth and regain our sovereignty.”

On their Facebook pages, they share news about current events — mostly stories dealing with guns and immigrants lately — and about limits of the federal government and survival tips (“how to create a complete self-sustaining homestead on 1 acre of land”). Here’s a sampling of their posts, some which get shared dozens of times.

As recently as the 1950s, Pennsylvania had a state-sponsored official militia. Governor Arthur James in 1941 signed an executive order creating the Pennsylvania State Guard, which was similar to a branch of the National Guard and answered to the governor. It disbanded in 1953. The Pennsylvania State Defense Force is a group based in Easton that is trying to get recognized by the state a la the Pennsylvania State Guard and claims to not be a militia.

Militias throughout the United States are becoming increasingly common, says Michael Barkun, professor emeritus at Syracuse University and author of “A Culture of Conspiracy.” The reason — as you might guess — is in large part fear of the Obama Administration.

“It’s a tremendous concern that people’s guns are going to be taken away,” Barkun said. “It’s kind of an irrational belief.” 

The Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia states on its website (multiple sics to follow), “We are NOT an anti Government group, however we are in favor for promoting education and resources for the protection against Tyranny and the corruption of Government officials, bad and un-constitutional legislation and or policies.”

Several members of Pennsylvania militias contacted by Billy Penn could not be reached for comment. But members of Pennsylvania militias have been following and largely voicing support for the actions of the Oregon militia on social media.

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...