“How can this be legal?” is a re-blog from The Weird Blog.
We live in crazy times. At a time when most of us are just trying to stay safe from the coronavirus pandemic and stay afloat in an unstable economy, we have seen armed counter-protesters turn out to threaten peaceful protesters in a quiet town like Weatherford, Texas. How can this be legal?
The President of the United States called on a private militia group to “stand back and stand by.”
The FBI and state authorities have arrested more than a dozen men for plotting to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia.
How can it be legal to create a private army? Send heavily armed civilians to public places to “protect property” like gas stations and statues without consent or coordination with local law enforcement?
Legal Scholars to the Rescue
Turns out I’m not the only one asking that question.
The Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection has been studying the rise of illegal militia organizations in all fifty states. They have challenged militia groups in court on constitutional grounds. Filed amicus briefs in other court cases. Advised communities on how to meet the challenge of active militia groups. They even sent a letter to the chief of police in Weatherford, Texas, advising him on applicable law.
Go to their website, and search for yourself. You’ll find fact sheets on the laws governing militias in your state. These sheets include advice on what you can do to defend yourself if heavily armed civilians show up at your polling site on November 3.
The Bottom Line in Texas
It all boils down to this: You and your buddies can meet up, take target practice, drill, and participate in private tactical exercises all you want. Wear camo like it’s high fashion, and buy body armor wherever it’s legally sold.
But if you take action—step into a public situation claiming law enforcement authority without being called up by the governor—you’re an unauthorized private militia and you’re breaking the law.
Simply put, your private army cannot self-activate. Only the duly recognized law enforcement authorities can deputize you to “lend a hand” when needed. You can’t just jump in because you think it would be a good idea.
How can this be legal?
Just to make it all clear, I’m going to contrast militia activity on the Weatherford square with the activities of a group I once belonged to: The Weatherford Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association.
The members of the Weatherford Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association, as the name implies, are all graduates of a six-week training course taught by the Weatherford Police Department. In the course you learn the basic duties of a Weatherford Police officer, undergo a background check and, if you’re interested, earn the right to volunteer for the Weatherford Police Department.
I did a lot of filing and shredding as a WPD volunteer. Other Citizen Police Academy volunteers ride on patrol with officers. They are frequently asked to help with crowd and traffic control during such large public events as the annual Parker County Peach Festival.
It’s All in the Authorization
That’s the key. The Police Department asked for help. CPA volunteers are directed by, and answerable to, the Police Department. They don’t just show up in a reflective vest and start bossing drivers and pedestrians around.
A group crosses the legal line anytime they take on a law-enforcement role without being asked. Unless they coordinate their activities with the good people in real law enforcement agencies, they are breaking the law.
Go to the Georgetown website. Learn about the law. More importantly, know who to contact and how to document your experience, if you feel some guy with a gun is crossing the line on Election Day.
If you find yourself wondering “How can this be legal?” you may find out that it’s not.
Many thanks to Channel 3000, for the photo of Kyle Rittenhouse and his fellow militia-member Ryan Balch in Kenosha. We also thank Spectrum News, Sabra Ayres, and Bay News 9, for the photo of the civilians in camo and ballistic armor, also in Kenosha. And we appreciate Megan Parks Photography and Durham Video and Photography for the photo from the Parker County Peach Festival.