The existence of militias is a hot-button issue no matter how you slice it. They’ve been here for decades, of course, and there’s a strong argument that they can and should be left alone. After all, you have a right to keep and bear arms and a right to assemble, so if you put those two together, you have a right to form a militia.
Not everyone agrees with that, however. Several states have anti-militia laws that seek to put a damper on such activities.
In Virginia, however, someone came up with the bright idea for local governments to authorize militias. Then they get to operate under local authority.
Mother Jones decided to take a look at what it’s like to live somewhere with an authorized militia. Unsurprisingly, they report some issues:
The state of Virginia has a very clear anti-paramilitary law—all paramilitary activity that includes teaching, demonstrating, or assembling one or more people for the purpose of training with firearms is explicitly prohibited—but laws are only as strong as a local law enforcement’s appetite for enforcing them. In a county like Bedford, what incentive does the locally elected sheriff have to enforce such laws when he knows that enough people in his community support the militia? “You just might as well resign now because you’re not going to get reelected,” McCord says.
But when I visited Bedford County, I was less interested in what life was like for members of the militia and their supporters. Not everyone in the area is on board with the paramilitary organization, and people who have publicly opposed the militia’s formation and official recognition say that they’ve been targeted, harassed, and doxxed by militia members and their supporters. And though Bedford and Campbell Counties are overwhelmingly white, the people of color who live in the area, which includes the neighboring city of Lynchburg, have felt targeted by government-sanctioned groups of mostly white people carrying guns in public.
They were “targeted, harassed, and doxxed by militia members and their supporters,” huh? Where’s the evidence? Where are the links showing this having happened?
Oh, there aren’t any? Shocking.
In other words, opponents claimed all this happened and this reporter didn’t bother to actually check it out. Fascinating.
Of course, I could be wrong. It may have happened. It damn well shouldn’t have, but it might have happened just like it’s claimed. Then again, we’ve seen people targeted, harassed, and doxxed for any number of other issues, too. For better or worse, this is politics in the 21st century, I’m afraid, so let’s not pretend these folks are unique.
Again, I’m not excusing it, but both sides do this far too often.
Anyway, moving on…
Despite the positive image that the Bedford Militia wants to project, the truth is that they are a group of armed civilians whose mission is “combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency” along with providing “community security.” Determining what exactly that means and when and where it’s necessary for an armed group of civilians without any kind of public oversight to get involved is, at best, controversial. At worst, it’s what led to much of the violence that took place last summer at protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Just as many other militias took to the streets opposite Black Lives Matter protests, so did the Bedford Militia, in an armed standoff that led to a riot in Lynchburg that the community is still reeling from.
And yet, there’s no issue.
Look, the overall perception of militias is that they’re domestic terrorists in the making. The dipsticks making pipe bombs or trying to get rockets from undercover FBI agents aren’t helping with that perception, either.
But guess who isn’t doing any of that? That’s right, the Bedford Militia.
See, they answer to the local government. That means if they try any of that, the local government is answerable. Everyone knows that, so it’s not happening.
Further, them showing up at a Black Lives Matter protest didn’t precipitate a riot. Black Lives Matter has shown us they don’t need anyone else there to riot, so this isn’t any different.
Frankly, Mother Jones is always going to try and find the dark side on anything that might remotely look good to the right. Why would this be any different?