Authored by Ryan Morgan via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Democrat lawmakers are advancing legislation intended to prevent privately organized paramilitary and militia group activities within the United States.
Introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Thursday, the bill dubbed the “Preventing Private Paramilitary Activity Act” would prohibit privately organized groups from “publicly patrolling, drilling, or engaging in harmful or deadly paramilitary techniques,” “interfering with or interrupting government proceedings,” or “interfering with the exercise of someone else’s constitutional rights,” according to Mr. Markey.
Their bills defines a “private paramilitary organization” as “any group of 3 or more persons associating under a command structure for the purpose of functioning in public or training to function in public as a combat, combat support, law enforcement, or security services unit.” The bill states acting with or on behalf of such a private paramilitary organization while armed with a firearm, explosive, incendiary device, or other dangerous weapon, and engaging in patrolling, training, interfering with government or constitutional rights, or assuming the functions of law enforcement without official authority.
The bill makes exceptions for members of the National Guard and other military reserve components, state guard forces, and members of other federal or state-organized groups to train in and apply paramilitary, law enforcement, and security service activity. The bill also allows for the organization of groups formed solely to conduct military reenactments, “bona-fide veterans organization with no intent to engage” in the aforementioned prohibited activities, and students in government or state-authorized educational institutions that teach military science.
Lawmakers Bring Bill in Response to Capitol Breach
Mr. Markey and Mr. Raskin introduced their legislation just days after the three-year anniversary of the breach at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a point they repeatedly referenced in a press release announcing the bill.
“Patrolling neighborhoods, impeding law enforcement and storming the U.S. Capitol, private paramilitary groups like the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and the Proud Boys are using political violence to intimidate our people and threaten democratic government and the rule of law,” Mr. Raskin said. “Our legislation makes the obvious but essential clarification that these domestic extremists’ paramilitary operations are in no way protected by our Constitution.”
Though rioters and demonstrators did not use firearms or other deadly weapons during the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, many did use blunt objects and pepper spray in clashes with police officers that day. Some individuals have also been charged for having firearms and other deadly weapons on their person while on Capitol grounds that day. In trials against members of the Oath Keepers and other defendants, prosecutors made note of members of the group moving through the crowds in an apparent practiced and organized fashion frequently described as a “stack” formation, as well as wearing tactical gear, and using portable communication devices to stay in contact and coordinate their actions.
“Three years ago, white supremacists affiliated with paramilitary organizations stormed the U.S. Capitol, shattering windows, walls, and the families of five U.S. Capitol police officers,” said Mr. Markey. “Private paramilitary actors, such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, pose a serious threat to democracy and the rule of law, and we must create new prohibitions on their unauthorized activities that interfere with the exercise of people’s constitutional rights. The forces of bigotry, hatred, and violent extremism must be stopped for the sake of our democracy.”
Prior to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, members of the Proud Boys had organized at conservative and right-leaning gatherings and demonstrations and clashed with violent counter-demonstrators—often members of the Antifa extremist group—intent on disrupting those gatherings.
Other Armed Organizations and Incidents
Following the death of George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis police custody in 2020, many left-wing groups organized in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and engaged in protests and riots throughout the summer of 2020. At various demonstrations, members of these groups often clashed with police officers. For weeks, rioters also threw fireworks, incendiary devices, and rocks at federal officers guarding a federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon.
During a political rally in support of President Donald Trump in Portland on Aug. 29, 2020, Trump supporters were met with violent counterprotesters. Trump supporter Aaron Danielson was shot and killed while walking to a parking garage following the event. In an interview with Vice News while evading law enforcement, self-described Antifa activist Michael Reinhoel described shooting Danielson while claiming he acted in self-defense. Reinhoel was charged with murder but was shot and killed during a confrontation with federal law enforcement officers attempting his arrest.
Mr. Markey and Mr. Raskin made no mention of any left-leaning organizations while announcing their bill on Thursday. Mr. Raskin told The Washington Times that the legislation was not written with a particular ideological viewpoint in mind.
During the civil unrest in the summer of 2020, some armed groups organized to protect private property from looting and vandalism. Several armed individuals organized to prevent property destruction at a gas station and used car lot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid rioting and arson in the city in August of 2020. It was during that incident that an individual who had joined the armed organized group, then-17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, shot and killed two people and wounded a third. Mr. Rittenhouse was charged with murder, but was acquitted after arguing he had acted in self-defense after he had been attacked by several individuals who‘d targeted private property and who’d chased after him, struck him, and pointed a firearm at him.
Individuals have also engaged in non-violent protest events while exercising their rights to carry firearms in public under relevant state and local laws.
NTD News reached out for comment from Mr. Markey and Mr. Raskin, with questions as to whether their legislation would impact organized groups of individuals guarding private property, participating in neighborhood watch groups, or attending nonviolent public demonstrations while armed. They did not respond by press time.
This week, U.S. Circuit Judge Florence Pan, an appointee of President Joe Biden, raised the hypothetical scenario of a president ordering the military to assassinate political rivals. NTD News asked Mr. Markey’s office whether groups that organize and train to respond to that scenario and other hypothetical scenarios involving tyrannical government action would be punished under his proposed legislation.