GRANT COUNTY - Members of a Grant County militia group believe their rights are slowly being taken away and the group is preparing for the worst.
"We're not like anti-government in any way, shape or form. We're just anti-tyranny. People want to get rid of those rights," said Chris, a member of the group. The members interviewed requested last names be excluded for their safety.
It's a small group right now, ranging from 15-25 members, but with President Obama's re-election and the fear of stricter gun control, more people are interested in joining. More than 20 people have expressed interest in the militia in the past three weeks. The group has more than 60 members on Facebook.
Interest in militia is growing across the country. There were just 42 militia groups statewide when Obama first took office, compared to 334 groups in 2011. There are more than 20 militia groups in Washington state. The statistics are from a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the only organizations that track militia groups and anti-government groups.
Frank Harrill, a FBI agent at the Spokane office, said the FBI only tracks militia groups that veer toward violence. Harrill was not aware of the Grant County group.
Members of the Grant County Militia said negative media coverage of extremist groups have damaged the perception of the purpose of a militia.
"We're not any type of extremists. We're just average people," said Alex, a militia member.
Alex said the rise of militia groups sends a message to the tyrants to be and the government to uphold their oath of office and support the Constitution.
The group is about more than defending the Constitution. Members complete training in gun use, military-style tactical training and survival training. Alex said the goal is to be self-sufficient.
"We're going back to what we used to know," he said. "Society right now is so tight to the system that's running it."
Chris said many of the members are ex-military and provide tactical training. Chris served in Iraq in 2003. He said he joined the group for emergency management, to support local police and fire departments and assist with natural disasters.
Ross, another member of the group, helped clean up areas of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Tom Jones, Grant County Sheriff, is aware of the group and said he has been contacted by militia leadership many times and they have offered to help.
"They know where I stand and I know where they stand," Jones said. "They're, bottom line, about protecting the rights of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They don't push their agenda on me."
Jones has never had problems with members of the group and said even with growing interest, the intent of the group is in the right place. He said if the group gets to the point of acting outside of what they should be, he will address it at that time.
"I'm sworn to uphold the Constitution. They live by it," he said. "They're gearing up for the absolute worst."
Jones said the militia could be an option in an absolute worst situation, but said it may not be much of a viable option.
Alex said the government is taking away rights in very small increments and the growth of militia groups will continue.
"And this, the people as a whole rise up and tell the government: look, get back in line with the Constitution, otherwise we will re-enact the Declaration of Independence," Alex said. "We'll come up with a new one and we'll redefine our independence from you once again."
The Grant County Militia is members of the Modern Militia Movement and the Washington State Militia Group, a constitutional pro-government group that believes in fighting for the Constitution by all means necessary, according to the website.