The FBI arrested a group of 13 men Thursday in Michigan and charged them with various federal and state crimes in connection with what the bureau said was a plot to storm the State Capitol, instigate a civil war, kidnap Gov Gretchen Whitmer, and terrorize citizens just a few weeks before the presidential election, The New York Times reports.
Officially they have been charged, so far, under federal and state law, with terrorism, conspiracy, and weapons-related crimes.
“I knew this job would be hard,” the paper quoted Ms Whitmer as saying, in reaction to news of the arrests. “But I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this.”
The group has been described as a “militia,” but that’s not the most accurate use of the word. Technically, militias are armed units of ordinary citizens (not military or law enforcement personnel) who can be called upon to assist the nation’s military forces. In most states, the governor has to make the call to activate the militia, which remains under the control of the government throughout their service.
As Mary B McCord explains, these groups that act against the government have no constitutional right to exist. Ms McCord is the legal director for Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and a visiting professor. She served as the acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice from 2016 to 2017.
“Even before the adoption of the Constitution, the colonies recognized the importance of a ‘well regulated’ militia to defend the state, in preference over standing armies, which they perceived as a threat to liberty,” she explains. “The militia consisted of able-bodied residents between certain ages who had a duty to respond when called forth by the government. … Indeed, 48 states have provisions in their constitutions that explicitly require the militia to be strictly subordinate to the civil authority.”
No citizen has a right, because of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution or any other law, to self-organize a paramilitary unit and unilaterally decide to activate their unit, either to oppose or strengthen government forces.