While Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun control agenda is still making its way through the state legislature, many of the Virginians who helped to turn their counties into Second Amendment Sanctuaries are taking another step in defense of their rights by forming or joining local “unorganized” militias.
Over the weekend, more than 100 residents of Halifax and Pittsylvania counties assembled for a militia muster, and as the Danville Register & Bee reports, they’re not alone.
Residents of Floyd County held a militia muster call on Jan. 18, hundreds of Bedford County volunteers from the Unorganized Militia of Bedford County met on Feb. 15 and the unorganized militia of Campbell County will meet on Feb. 29.
These militias are forming in response to gun control legislation pushed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the Democratic majorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates. The proposed measures include “red flag” laws, which would allow firearms to be legally confiscated from people deemed to be a risk to themselves or others, the return of a one handgun a month law and a law that would classify anyone who “recklessly” leaves a loaded unsecured firearm near a minor as a felon.
As the paper makes clear, these entities are not anti-government. They’re not advocating violence either. Instead, organizers are hoping the groups can have a positive impact on their communities and their state.
During speeches and a public comment period at the muster call, many residents and organizers spoke about the role of a militia. In a short speech to a captive audience, Halifax resident Justin Worsham said the group is in no way associated with any gangs and will not tolerate extremism or white supremacy in any way.
“We don’t want war, we don’t want violence… if hate and violence and civil unrest are on your agenda, this is not the place for you,” he said.
In addition to defending constitutional rights such as the right to bear arms, the organizers see these militias as contributing to the community in other ways.
“One of our goals with militias is to also provide help during national disasters… it’s also a way to have a positive impact on the community,” [organizer Michael] Dunn said.
I honestly expected the story from the Danville paper to be full of snarky asides about the armed bumpkins, but it’s actually a pretty positive piece that rightfully portrays those in attendance at the militia muster as engaged citizens, not armed insurrectionists.
Wearing bulletproof gear and armed, Gretna resident Jade Jones, 23, explained she was skeptical about the militia at first, but the muster call was “a positive environment.” She plans on continuing to be involved. As an African American female, she feels compelled to lead by example and show other African Americans and woman that this is a positive movement.
“I just figured it would be positive for people to see me out here,” she said after the swearing in ceremony.
“I figured it would be a good idea to get organized and meet the other people,” added her 22-year-old boyfriend, Mathew Davis.
The paper does note that many local politicians don’t want to comment about the militia movement in their area, though none have expressed outright opposition.
Many county officials refrained from voicing opposition or support of a local militia or county support of such a group. Supervisors Ben Farmer and Bob Warren declined to comment for this story.
Westover Supervisor Ronald Scearce, who thinks that Virginia lawmakers are not considering the concerns of law-abiding gun-owners, said he is open to the idea of militias but wants to wait and see what bills come out of the General Assembly.
“I would entertain any common sense response to the General Assembly,” he said.
Joe Davis, supervisor for the Dan River district, said he also does yet not see a need for a local militia.
“The only thing I can say is when the Second Amendment conversation came up, obviously I did speak in favor of the fact that I believe in the Second Amendment,” said Banister Supervisor Charles Miller.
Vic Ingram, recently elected supervisor for the Tunstall District, said he is concerned about the regulation and leadership of local level militias and believes that those involved should be working with local law enforcement.
“Before I would vote to endorse some kind of militia activity, there’s a whole lot of questions I would have,” he said.
While these new militias aren’t designed as political organizations, I do hope that voter turnout will be a primary activity of members between now and election day in November. While there are no state legislative races on the ballot in the state this year, we will be electing a U.S. Senator, and I believe there are a couple of anti-gun members of Virginia’s congressional delegation that could be ousted this fall. In terms of organized opposition, our best bet in the state at the moment is to elect pro-Second Amendment candidates to office, both in the 2020 elections and in 2021, when Virginians will have a chance to elect a governor, attorney general, and delegates that will protect their rights and the public safety instead of demonizing the state’s legal gun owners while ignoring violent criminals.