Bancroft, MI –
Bancroft, MI (WKAR) - It's April 15th, tax day in the United States. It's also a traditional day of protest around the country. The national economy and the new administration have brought new urgency to some of those events. One local tax protest is used as a recruiting tool for local militia groups. WKAR's Rob South researches the militia and went to an annual "tax blast" event, and fired off this report.
Nine-year-old Raven Miracle kicked off the Southwest Michigan Volunteer Militia's annual Tax Blast. She had to throw back her long braided pigtails to get a good shot. Her pink sweater perfectly coordinated with her hot pink 22-caliber rifle.
This year the event drew more than 100 people some of them shooting, some of them just there to watch. But all of them, save for the few reporters and a stray researcher, were there in support of the militia movement.
Lee Miracle coordinates events like the Tax Blast. He says since Barack Obama took office, more and more people have been asking about joining the militia.
"Yes, just look around," Miracle says. "I can't give you a number percentage-wise, I know it's up, just the amount of emails we get, the amount of hits we get and things like that, so I mean, very much noticeable."
The militia's Tax Blast is one part family picnic, one part recruitment, with healthy doses of guns and constitutional rights. This year the Revolutionary War catch-phrase "no taxation without representation" is prominent.
Jim Gullickson is with the Lenawee County Volunteer Militia. He joined the group two years ago. Gullikson says the Tax Blast is a good way to vent his frustration over the nation's taxing and financial system. He says it's his way of being an activist.
"And there's all sorts of problems, and we need to get people involved, have people wake up and understand what's going on," Gullickson says. "And get involved in what's going and try to change it."
If interest in the militia is growing, so too is gun ownership. A recent report by a research firm that tracks gun sales for sporting goods retailers says revenue from gun sales are up nationally 20 percent from last year.
At Classic Arms Company in Lansing, owner Yvonne Joseph says compact, concealable guns are very popular right now. She's showing me the Glock19.
Joseph says she's seen sales increase 50 percent since last year.
"I mean we've had a really dramatic increase in handgun sales," Joseph says. "The big issue right now is ammunition; we can't get ammunition. The shortage is most prevalent in any handgun ammunition, whether it be .380, .45 caliber."
Back at the Tax Blast, the ammunition shortage isn't apparent. Nearly everyone here has been enjoying the open shooting range. But Lenawee County's Jim Gullikson says defending your freedom isn't just about taking up arms. He says freedoms come from being involved in making the very decisions that are protested by people like him.
"Oh yes anybody," Gullickson says. "I don't care who it is, if you're a legal resident you may be involved as a trustee in a township, or even just going to the township meetings or city hall, city council meetings. Get involved in the government, get involved in what's running the country and running your life."
Gullickson also says in that sense, everyone should consider themselves part of the militia. Ready to do whatever it takes to protect America: either by protesting taxes, serving in government or taking up arms.