FRONT ROYAL - Citizens have asked the Board of Supervisors to approve a resolution establishing a militia or similar armed organization bearing a different name, continuing the statewide trend of gun owner reaction to the General Assembly's consideration of a package of gun control proposals.
Sam Haun presented a proposed resolution to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, saying that “the reason that we brought this before you is because it is a constitutional right for us as citizens to have a militia.”
This is on the heels of over 1,000 citizens packing E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School for a December public hearing in which the supervisors declared Warren County a "Second Amendment sanctuary." Shenandoah County, along with other localities throughout Virginia, has approved a similar resolution.
Due to misconceptions of the word “militia,” Haun noted that “we thought about calling it an organization.”
“Basically what we wanted to do is be able to help the community. We wanted to have trained personnel to be there to help with mass casualties if that were to happen. It would be kind of an auxiliary force for law enforcement,” he said.
Resident Paul Aldrich said the need for a militia has arisen out of the “Second Amendment mess that the state has created.” He agreed that the word “militia” can have negative connotations and perhaps it could be called “a community group.”
Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler noted that perhaps “auxiliary” is a better term than “militia” because the latter can be unsettling for some people.
He added that he has “no issues with it” but any members must be “vetted completely” and “for the people,” not their personal agendas.
“We can get trained individuals that are background-checked thoroughly, to include polygraph and urinalysis, which everyone in the Sheriff’s Office will be or has been,” Butler said.
The resolution Haun presented to the supervisors notes that the Second Amendment states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The resolution outlines a series of actions for the supervisors to adopt, including:
-Funding concealed weapons training for residents, including firearms safety training in public schools.
-Funding Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), Boy Scouts of America, and Girl Scouts of America programs.
-Eliminate funding for enforcement of laws or regulations that unconstitutionally infringe upon law-abiding citizens' right to keep and bear arms.
Haun noted that the county previously offered a $75 concealed carry course, but that is “unacceptable” and it should be free.
Butler noted that he just assumed office and that the office is already looking into initiating gun safety classes taught by members of the Sheriff’s Office.
“Just give us time to get it implemented. But we’re looking to actually make our gun holders more safe, that’s what we’re looking to do, we’re not looking to take away rights, we’ll never take away rights,” Butler said.
Resident Harold Baggarly was in favor of the militia being under the Sheriff’s Office, saying that Butler “is a good man” who can be responsible for vetting and supervising the militia.
“I’ll guarantee you he will take care of it,” Baggarly said.
Supervisors Chairman Walter Mabe said he is one of those people who do not necessarily like the word “militia.”
“They are to protect us, I understand that, but it just brings on this whole image that maybe I’m afraid...I’m not afraid of anything...but I’m super concerned,” Mabe said.
Mabe noted that there are “lots of questions” regarding the potential militia and there will be “lots of meetings before we even consider doing something like this.”
He said those questions include: Who is running the militia? Who is training the militia? How are they being trained?
“What certificates do they carry? Are they actually a group of people that’s walking around carrying guns?” he inquired.
Mabe added that he is not necessarily opposed to a militia but “there’s a lot of controls that have to be put in place and frankly, sitting here, we’re not ready for that.”
Aldrich said that while “we all pray that we never come to that day where we need it,” if things go wrong the group could “step in and help out.”