WASHINGTON -- Five years after it reached a peak, the anti-government militia movement has dwindled in numbers to "a shadow of its former self," according to a study released Tuesday.
As convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh, one of its principal figures, faces execution next week, the militia or so-called patriot movement had by last year steadily declined to 194 identifiable groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center found.
The center said in a 65-page report that the conservative militia movement, which began developing in the early 1990s, reached a peak of 858 groups in 1996. Last year's total represented a 9 percent decline from the previous year, its fourth consecutive annual drop, the report said.
"People have left the militia movement for a variety of reasons," said Mark Potok, editor of the law center's intelligence project, which published the study. "They have gone home, disillusioned and tired of waiting for the revolution that never seems to come."
In other cases, Potok said, some members "have been scared off, frightened by the arrests of thousands of comrades for engaging in illegal weapon violations and even terrorist plots.
"And they have, in great numbers, left the relatively non-racist 'patriot' world for the harder-line groups that now make up most of the radical right," he added.
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