Are Militias Legal in Washington State

On Monday night, the Spokane City Council copied state restrictions on unauthorized private militias — or any group that behaves like one in public — into city law and allowed the violations to be prosecuted in district court. In 1888, a confrontation in the mining town of Roslyn in Kittitas County, east of Ridge Waterfall, helped shape the Constitution of Washington State. The incident, a small chapter in a long narrative of regional turbulence, involved unionized workers, scabs, hired railroad workers armed with weapons, and violent clashes over race. «When we see individuals there, and they have guns and camouflage equipment, is it one element to be a militia?» asks Meidl. «What we`re trying to understand is how to make sure we respect the rights of the individual, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, freedom of assembly, freedom of association,» while following the state`s ban on armed groups, he says. For more than a century, there has been a state law that seems to prohibit most civilians from organizing or marching together with firearms in public. But this is a law that has not been enforced in Spokane or anywhere else in the state in recent history. Yet when the city began cracking down on these groups, it worried local Second Amendment supporters like Tanner Rowe. He argues that militias, like gun owners, vary.

Some are shady, but most are not bad people. OLYMPIA – Following the invasion of anti-government mobs into the U.S. Capitol and armed protesters who gained access to the Grounds of Washington`s Governor`s House on Wednesday, state lawmakers are considering new restrictions on armed groups operating in public. Three percent of Washington, a far-right paramilitary organization, had announced that it would occupy the legislative building here before the Legislative Assembly next Tuesday. But the group canceled those plans Thursday in the wake of attacks on government properties in Washington and Olympia. In 1879, a German civilian militia leader named Herman Presser was accused of violating Illinois law after leading a force of 400 armed men through the streets of Chicago. His case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found that state law banning private paramilitary organizations did not violate the Second Amendment. Groups of armed individuals who engage in paramilitary activities or law enforcement functions without being called by a governor or the federal government and without reporting to a government agency act as unauthorized private militias.

They sometimes train together and react to events with firearms and other paramilitary techniques, such as staking tactical positions and operating in military formations. They often claim to have the power to participate in military and law enforcement functions such as property protection and crowd control. DEFINING «MILITIA» «They`ve been around for a long time,» police chief Meidl said of state law that prohibits marches by armed groups. In his comments at a committee meeting on Monday, he defended the militias against the idea that they were all white supremacists and was skeptical about how law enforcement would work in practice. «We did a bit of digging last week. There is not yet a department [in the state] that has implemented this. In labour disputes during this period, business owners often expected local police, sheriffs or militias to support them. This was not always possible or desirable, and many questioned whether public enforcement of the law should be available to mine owners who operated their workers. Nevertheless, in many cases, the local police lay down in bed with the owners and made their offers. But that didn`t happen here: the Kittitas County sheriff eventually arrested Sullivan and his men for falsely claiming to be detached, a charge they denied.

«Probably no original clause introduced into the Constitution is more important and more consistent with strict democratic principles than those introduced by Mr. Kinnear, who prohibits the importation of armed men`s bodies into the state for the purpose of maintaining order,» historian Lebbeus J. Knapp wrote in an article for the Washington Historical Quarterly in 1913. Knapp summed up the core of the agreement on the provision and wrote, «The wickedness` of the leased weapons.» was too simple for the arguments. It has been shown that the state, and only the state, should protect its citizens in times of turmoil and disturbance in life and property. Even before this week`s events, top lawmakers said they would consider a handful of bills that tighten the state`s legal restrictions on groups carrying guns in public. Their measures are aimed at combating the proliferation of militiamen carrying assault rifles, which have become increasingly common during Black Lives Matter protests and on the steps of the Capitol. After the uprising, lawmakers in Washington are looking for options to derail ad hoc militias because it is already illegal in the non-binding resolution for armed private militias to march with guns in Spokane. The 50 states, in one way or another, prohibit private armies, militias or paramilitary forces within their borders. The Washington State Constitution states that any militia must be in «strict subordination to the civilian power,» that is, the state or federal government. It also affirms a citizen`s right to bear arms for self-defense or the state, but warns that these rights should not be interpreted as «authorizing individuals or companies to organize, maintain or employ an armed group of men.» OLD LAWS It`s not just Washington that has an anti-militia law in the books.

Almost every state has a version of it. And there are many legal precedents that justify it. In recent years, the bodies of armed men have become a regular sight at protest sites across the country. Men with semi-automatic weapons draped over their shoulders and pistols wrapped on their hips appeared at far-right freedom rallies in Olympia, anti-racist protests in Portland and on Jan. 6 outside the country`s Capitol, where a crowd of pro-Trump supporters stormed the halls of Congress. The increase in the number of armed protesters has alarmed many observers, and now some Washington state lawmakers are reacting. In the current legislature, they hope to strengthen the rules and enforcement of guns, demonstrations and paramilitary groups that in some cases – when people brandish weapons with the intention of intimidating, for example – appear to violate state law. «We have to be strong, we have to show that we are not complacent towards the militias. They will come to Spokane, they will protest and they will intimidate,» Kinnear said.

Dhingra said she also wanted to discuss the gun ban at demonstrations, rallies and parades. As a former prosecutor, Dhingra doubts prosecutors will enforce the state`s existing anti-paramilitary laws unless the crime is egregious. To allay community concerns, Councillor Karen Stratton unsuccessfully proposed postponing the vote for three weeks to allow communities of color to give their opinion and gain more clarity on legal formalities, such as defining a militia. Washington, like Idaho and all other states, has similar laws that restrict paramilitary activities. However, Washington`s law has evolved over the years. The 1943 version forbade citizens to organize together in an armed military company, but made an exception for clubs that wanted to carry swords with them.