Militias challenge gun laws in Virginia: “It’s about shooting tyrants in the face”

CBS News

On a cold winter morning last February, a woman named Samantha assembled her AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in the parking area next to Timbrook Public Library in Campbell County, Virginia. Her husband, Chad, had his AR-15 in hand and commented, “I would trust going into a gun fight right next to my wife. I’ve seen her shoot.”

Samantha was one of a handful of women attending the call for volunteers to join a group calling itself the Campbell County Militia. Along with Chad and Samantha (who asked to have their last name withheld), over 200 people were at the event, most of them carrying arms. 

Kurt Feigel, a gun rights activist and militia organizer, told the group, “We are here today to send a clear and collective message to any would-be-tyrants that would attempt to disarm us: We will not comply.”

The formation of the Campbell County Militia is part of a larger movement organized by gun rights activists pushing back against gun laws Virginia enacted in 2020. They claim the new regulations, which include a “red flag” law and universal background checks for gun purchases, infringe on their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Virginia lawmakers shelved more controversial proposals that would have banned semi-automatic guns and high capacity magazines. Still, gun rights activists are bracing for a possible future ban.

“We won’t comply. We won’t give up our guns,” said Feigel.

Virginia became a battleground for the gun policy debate after Democrats swept both houses of the state legislature in 2019 on a gun safety platform, consolidating Democratic control of the state government.

Gun policy has long been a divisive issue in the United States. Even as support grows for stricter gun laws, the country remains deeply divided along partisan lines. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey found 60% of Americans think gun laws should be more strict, up from 52% two years earlier. But the same survey also found 80% of Republicans think it’s more important to protect gun rights than to control gun ownership, while just 21% of Democrats agree.

In Virginia, gun rights supporters pushed back against the Democratic legislative majority. Over 90 counties and municipalities in the state passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions opposing the enforcement of certain gun laws. And there were calls to form local militias to give their movement some “teeth.”

“If we have the numbers, we can back up the statement — we will not be disarmed,” said Feigel. “[The Second Amendment] is not about hunting. It’s not about self-defense. It’s about shooting tyrants in the face.”

The militia movement even garnered local government support in some counties. In March, the Campbell County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution backing the militia. Supervisor Matt Cline told CBS News via email: “The resolution was historic. To my knowledge, there has not been a constitutional militia recognized by a governing body since the Civil War.”

Mary McCord, the legal director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University, is troubled by the development. “I don’t like using ‘militia’ without ‘unlawful’ or ‘vigilante’ in front of it. The term militia, for some people, can note a lawful group, and they’re not lawful,” she said.

Many so-called militia groups point to the phrase “well-regulated militia” in the Second Amendment to argue authority under the Constitution. But McCord says they’ve got it wrong.

“There’s a gray area in the Second Amendment, and there’s a lot of unanswered questions, but this is not one of them,” explained McCord. “Under the U.S. Constitution, it’s Congress that has the ability to call forth and regulate a militia through the Militia Act that established the National Guard.” States like Virginia have a similar framework where its governor can call forth the militia. McCord said, “No one else has that authority.”

Historian and legal analyst Patrick Charles said the formation of the militias in Virginia around gun policy was significant. “It shows how polarized our politics have become,” he said.

He also distinguished between making a strong statement and crossing the line into military action. “I would say it could be treason. Are they just acting on behalf of the First Amendment, ‘I’m declaring myself a militia’? Or are they performing state-sanctioned militia functions? If they’re doing the latter, that is arguably treason.”

All 50 states prohibit paramilitary organizations.

Kurt Feigel said he disagreed with the legal experts. “We have the right to assemble peacefully, and we have a right to defend our communities. Not as vigilantes, but we aren’t going to let people roll into our town and burn it down like in Portland and Seattle.”

Gun sales in the U.S. have surged since March, fueled by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and this summer’s protests over racial injustice and police brutality. In October, required background checks increased an estimated 60% compared to October 2019.

Chad, who works in finance, said he and Samantha, a substitute teacher, are socially liberal on issues other than guns and the Second Amendment. “But if I give up that right, then there’s nothing I can do to defend my other rights,” he said.

He claims the county militias “are not inherently anti-government,” though he adds, “It could potentially be anti- certain people in the government if they become tyrannical.”

Feigel doesn’t see room for a middle ground on gun regulation. “I have no interest in compromising with the opposition that would like to restrict my Second Amendment freedom. It’s a right,” he said.

Lori Haas, senior advocacy directory for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, says the militias’ stance is “the very definition of insurrectionism: ‘I don’t like the law, so I’m going to ignore it, and I’m going to use my gun to intimidate you.'”

“The Second Amendment can be regulated. Regulations have been recognized as being constitutional,” Haas said. She got involved in gun violence prevention efforts after her daughter, Emily, was wounded in the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007, where 32 people were killed.

McCord said, “Supporters of gun rights can express their opposition to gun safety legislation through speech and the right to petition their government. … They don’t have any constitutional right or authority to organize themselves as armed private paramilitary organizations, to oppose the government by using coercive and intimidating tactics.”

She cited the situation in Michigan last spring when heavily armed protesters and militia members converged on the statehouse to oppose the governor’s pandemic restrictions. (Several men who took part were later charged in an alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.)

“They have no authority to deploy publicly, while armed, organizing themselves together and asserting authority over the public to protect property [or] statues, that we saw throughout the summer during the racial justice protests.”

But frustration is growing for Chad and Samantha, who feel that Virginia’s laws go too far. “It just feels like our values are the ones always attacked, and we constantly have to defend our right to bear arms,” said Chad.

“Even if their opinion is right and [the militia] is illegal, I don’t know that I care because the whole point of the militia is defending our rights.”

 

7 thoughts on “Militias challenge gun laws in Virginia: “It’s about shooting tyrants in the face”

  1. The argument is simple, boiled down to this. The Bill of Rights is the separate and supreme law of the land. That 2nd Article in that Bill of Rights has not a thing to do with that separate constitution.

  2. Mary McCord, the legal director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University, is troubled by the development. “I don’t like using ‘militia’ without ‘unlawful’ or ‘vigilante’ in front of it. The term militia, for some people, can note a lawful group, and they’re not lawful,” she said.

    Marry McCord
    You are a traitor and must be scared
    Or just stupid
    Go back and read The Peoples Framework for our government
    The second article could make you either shit your pants
    Or wake you up to your ignorance

    If you don’t realize it
    Than maybe you should leave

    Oh and Whitmer wasn’t going to get kidnapped
    She was going to get arrested , and tried for treason and sedition
    And we still ain’t done yet
    So sit back and learn the reality of the country your living in and what rights it affords you as well as me
    That is until you tread on our rights
    Than you will find yourself on the wrong end of the drop

  3. I jumped here and there in this article, what comes to mind is; there can be no words put to paper that can change, modify, amend, restrict, make mandate upon or any other restriction to ANY of My (Our) American enumerated rights.

    The enumerations were put there as a basic, initial list of certain understandings as it relates to Sovereign Human Beings (We the people) and this Construct known as Government, along with the restrictions to the constitution. End of discussions that can’t exist.

    It is real simple and these corporate criminals speaking to the subject of the peoples rights in this article and elsewhere are standing tall and declaring their naked outright treason.

    So, sounds good to me. Acknowledged and Noted, added to the lists.

  4. Put this bitch in an underground metal cage with Biden, both naked for a week rations only. At the end of the week, throw a loaded AR15 into the cage and slam the door shut.

  5. Wow. CBS news spits this as truth? I’m so shocked.

    First of all I don’t care about your definition of a militia or what regulated means. When I carry a firearm I’m not acting in a militia capacity. I’m acting in the “,the right of the people to keep and bare arms, shall not be infringed.(.)
    So circle jerk your state subsidized 80k education up your ass.

    Acting as malitia is treason. Wow!

    I’m so looking forward to showing up to the pearly gates covered in the tree of liberty’s food.
    There’s a fkkking quote for a t-shirt.

  6. Tench Coxe was an American political economist and a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress in 1788–1789.
    Tench Coxe wrote: “Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. THEIR SWORDS AND EVERY OTHER IMPLEMENT OF THE SOLDIER ARE THE BIRTHRIGHT OF AN AMERICAN. The unlimited power of the sword IS NOT in the hands of either the federal or state government, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE. As civil rulers not having their duty to the people duly before them MAY ATTEMPT TO TYRANNIZE and as military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country MIGHT PERVERT THEIR POWER TO THE INJURY OF THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS, the PEOPLE ARE CONFIRMED BY THE NEXT ARTICLE IN THEIR RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR! THEIR! PRIVATE! ARMS! The militia who are in fact THE EFFECTIVE PART OF THE PEOPLE AT LARGE will form a powerful check on the regular troops.”
    The people are faced with an unlawful corporate aristocratic dictatorship, created in violation of the written ratified law of the people, the Bill of Rights.
    9th Article: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
    The chartering of the United States Corporation is a violation of this written ratified law.
    Our 2nd Article right to keep and bear arms is being attacked through the unlawful 14th Amendment, again created in violation of the written ratified law of the 9th Article of the people’s Bill of Rights by an unlawful corporate occupation.
    10th Article: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, NOR PROHIBITED BY IT to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
    This is the superior law of every state via ratification of the people’s representatives.
    Every gun policy operating today in every state is a violation of the written ratified law in the 9th and the 10th Articles and to pretend that those who have committed these crimes have some sort of authority to nullify the people’s written ratified law and the people’s superior jurisdiction and tell us we cannot form up a militia and enforce that law is high treason and sedition.
    Tench Coxe made it clear that the 2nd Article right of the people at large who are the militia, that is each and every individual one of us, to organize and enforce our law in removing the criminals who have violated it, hence checking that unlawful power, cannot be denied.
    You people out there who do not like our absolute ratified law and the superior jurisdiction of we the people, f-king leave or prepare to die, like the British did, when you come for our guns because every one of you is going to be shot or hung for the crime of treason and sedition. You want communism, go to China or Russia because here in the united states of the Americas, WE THE PEOPLE ARE NOT GOING TO ALLOW IT. We will give you no quarter and will expect none and we will put you to the slaughter for thinking you could f-k with our freedom and liberty. So either shut your f-king mouth or get to it. There are way too many of us that are way past sick and tired of listening to your mouths and waiting on you to make good on your criminal threats. Come give it a go and we will do to you what our ancestors did to the King of England, and not one treasonous one of you will be left alive within the boundaries of our sovereign nation. Bring it on, you f-king punks.

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