Are Groups Of White Armed Vigilantes Militias Or Racist Gangs?



by Elliot Fineman
CEO – Founder
National Gun Victims Action Council

 September 10, 2017

The hate groups that converged on Charlottesville last month––neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists––were so well armed, they looked like an  invading army wrote the New York Times. “They had better equipment than our State Police had,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.


These armed vigilantes invariably say they are militias exercising their Second Amendment rights not lawless, hateful gangs intimidating minorities. Yet, while they claim they do not intimidate minorities, the only place they ever seem to appear is in minority neighborhoods.


They impersonate police or military when in fact they are self-directed lawbreakers who feel justified in shooting anyone they––in their own minds––deem a “threat.” They want to serve as judge, jury and executioner.


Similar vigilante gangs were seen in Ferguson, Missouri in 2015 after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in 2014. Members of the right-wing group Oath Keepers who say they serve “military, police, and citizens who pledge to fulfill the oath to defend the Constitution” (while they violate it) roamed the mostly black community with assault weapons.


If armed right-wing groups are “militias” to whom do they report? Who gives them orders and discipline? Who inspects and directs them? The Second Amendment clearly specifies a “well-regulated” militia which these self-regulated groups are not.


These unofficial armed groups are racist gangs symbolically trying to bring back the days of slavery when official state militias prevented slave uprisings. In fact, the only reason we have the Second Amendment was to enable the horror of slavery to continue.


Slavery was the heart of the economic life of the slave states—without forced labor their economies could not survive. The state militias were used to control slaves and to suppress rebellion. They employed brutal methods of terror such as murder and arson––methods which later would be adopted by the Ku Klux Klan. State militias were required because the slave population was such a large proportion of the total state population.


For example, as per the 1790 census, in Virginia slaves were 39 percent of the total population, in South Carolina 43 percent and in Maryland 32 percent.


Committing to include the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights removed the threat of Congress using its constitutionally granted power to disarm the state militias. This was the price that had to be paid for ratification.


Patrick Henry, who opposed the Constitution, reminded the delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Richmond in 1788 that “The militia were the last and best defense against slave insurrection.” 


Today’s white armed vigilante gangs are not patriots defending the Constitution or aiding law enforcement officers. They echo the horror of the slave state militias and eagerly carry on this racist tradition.