By early 1996, virtually every state had at least one group, and most states had several. The movement had attracted the attention not only of the media but also of law enforcement, however, which had begun to discover signs of significant criminal activity. As early as 1994, members of the Blue Ridge Hunt Club, a nascent Virginia militia group, had been arrested on a variety of weapons charges. The following year an Oklahoma Christian Identity minister and militia leader, Ray Lampley, was arrested along with several followers for conspiring to blow up targets ranging from government buildings to the offices of civil rights organizations. But in 1996, a series of investigations resulted in a number of major militia-related arrests, generally on illegal weapons, explosives and conspiracy charges. In April 1996, several members of the Georgia Republic Militia were arrested, followed in July by a dozen members of the Arizona Viper Militia. Later that same month, members of the Washington State Militia found themselves in custody, while in October members of the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia were arres-ted on weapons charges and in connection with plans to blow up an F.B.I. fingerprinting facility. These arrests, not surprisingly, had a depressing effect on the movement.
Other events in 1996 and 1997 also served to weaken the movement. The most ambitious attempt to network militia groups together, the Tri-States Militia, collapsed in 1996 when it was revealed that its leader had been accepting money from the F.B.I. In March 1996, the F.B.I. surrounded the Montana Freemen, a sovereign citizen group, in remote eastern Montana, then arrested them following an 81-day standoff. Although a few militia members traveled to Montana to support (or aid) the Freemen, by and large the movement failed to respond, a fact that embittered some of the more radical members. (This scenario would be repeated the following spring when the militia failed to come to the rescue of the besieged Republic of Texas near Fort Davis, Texas.) Lack of response on the part of the militia movement caused a number of radical members to splinter away at the same time that some of the less hard-core members were leaving because of the increased arrests. By the fall of 1996, the movement had clearly faltered, and several prominent early leaders dropped out, including Idaho militia leader Samuel Sherwood; he disbanded his group in September, complaining that "the whole movement is being distorted on one side by the press and the media and taken over by the nuts and the crazies on the other."
Some militia activists attempted to buck the tide by establishing militia umbrella groups, most of which lasted only a few years. More radical members eschewed elaborate militia organizations and attempted to go it on their own. In Michigan, a group of militia members, allegedly kicked out of the Michigan Militia for being too radical, formed a group first called the "Goof Troop," then, with more dignity, the North American Militia. Members planned to bomb a large number of targets in Michigan, including a federal building and an I.R.S. building; they constructed a variety of pipe bombs and even discussed assassinating various government officials. By 1998, five members of the group had been arrested and convicted on multiple charges; leaders Brad Metcalf and Randy Graham received 40- and 55-year sentences, respectively. In Missouri, a group of extremists from several different states, led by Bradley Glover of Kansas, met at a gathering of the "Third Continental Congress," but decided that this umbrella group was not radical enough for them. They struck out on their own, planning to attack United States military bases that they suspected were training New World Order troops. Members were so committed that they sold their businesses and homes in order to have plenty of money and be completely mobile. The first planned attack would occur against Fort Hood, Texas, on July 4, 1997 -- the day that the military base hosts an annual "Freedom Festival" attended by 50,000 men, women and children. Luckily, good police work on the part of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the F.B.I. detected the plans and prevented a tragedy; Glover and a companion were arrested on July 4 at a campground near Fort Hood. Eventually seven people were arrested in connection with the group.