The Bedford County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution formally recognizing a local militia at its May 26 meeting in a 5 to 2 vote.
Emphasizing the importance of no government involvement or interference with local militias on a local, state or federal level, the Bedford County-based militia will not receive funding, endorsement, leadership or any other resources from the county, according to the resolution. The board also did not want the county to assume any potential liability related to a local militia.
“I think the arms-length approach is the better approach to avoid liability,” said Board Chairman John Sharp, who represents the county’s District 4.
Sharp said he believed a formal recognition of the local militia might give the group stronger legal standing should it ever find itself in a court to challenge a law deemed “unconstitutional” as it related to the Second Amendment and gun rights of law-abiding citizens.
District 1 Supervisor Mickey Johnson and District 2 Supervisor Edgar Tuck voted against adopting a resolution relating to the issue.
Johnson expressed concern about setting a precedent that might allow extreme groups to come forward asking to be recognized as a militia.
Tuck said he worried that if someone could find a way to pin liability on the county regarding hypothetical militia action, they would do so.
“I’m just not sure that we need to do this,” he said.
Sharp said he understood the concerns of his colleagues, but also said he saw adopting the resolution as a useful tool.
“From my perspective, this is a move on a chessboard,” Sharp said. “We’re playing chess with Richmond right now. Richmond is trying to say, ‘You can’t do this.’ We’re saying, ‘Well, if they’re part of a militia, these people can do this.’ All we’re basically doing is pointing out the Virginia Constitution, United States Constitution, and why they can do this.”
Sharp, District 6 Supervisor Bob Davis, District 3 Supervisor Charla Bansley, District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker and District 5 Supervisor/Vice Chairman Tommy Scott all voted in favor of the resolution.
Bedford County’s local militia, like other militias across Virginia, was organized by some residents concerned that proposed Virginia gun legislation would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of gun-owning citizens.