Earlier this month, an accused white supremacist in Florida named Marcus Faella was sentenced for two counts of the “crime” of “paramilitary training.” The sentence he must serve is six months in prison–vastly less than the 30 years he might have received. From WFTV 9:
The man found guilty of leading a white supremacist group in Osceola County has been sentenced to six months in jail.
Marcus Faella could have faced up to 30 years in prison after being found guilty on two counts of paramilitary training, but he instead got only a few months.
The “white supremacist” accusation, if true (and there appears to be some question about that, according to witnesses called by the defense) paints Faella as an unsavory, and indeed reprehensible, individual. But it does not–cannot, in a free society–make him a criminal. As National Gun Rights Examiner Dan notes in his online journal War on Guns:
As for the guy being a racist, if he hurt anybody, prosecute him. If he didn’t, life is full of distasteful people. Tolerance doesn’t mean approval, as much as some insist otherwise.
But rather than Faella’s specific case, let’s look at the Florida law he was convicted of violating (one count of “paramilitary training by teaching,” and one count of “paramilitary training by participation”). Couldn’t, after all, any kind of training intended to make a militia more effective (or “better-regulated”) be considered “paramilitary training”? Well, the law is a bit more specific than that:
(3)(a) Whoever teaches or demonstrates to any other person the use, application, or making of any firearm, destructive device, or technique capable of causing injury or death to persons, knowing or having reason to know or intending that the same will be unlawfully employed for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder within the United States, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(b) Whoever assembles with one or more persons for the purpose of training with, practicing with, or being instructed in the use of any firearm, destructive device, or technique capable of causing injury or death to persons, intending to unlawfully employ the same for use in, or in furtherance of, a civil disorder within the United States, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Well, OK, then–the training is only illegal if intended to prepare people to engage in civil disorder. Who could object to that?
Well, anyone who thinks to ask who gets to define what constitutes “civil disorder,” and determine the intentions of the teachers and participants in the training. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, after all, designates as “insurrectionists” anyone who dares utter that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee the people’s means of resisting a tyrannical government. That list includes even mild-mannered gun rights advocates.
The Brady Campaign expressed outraged indignation when National Public Radio profiled the Southeast Michigan Militia as a benign organization that prepares to help maintain civil order, rather than reinforce the anti-gun groups’ preferred narrative of militias as terrorist groups.
And the Florida “justice” system is definitely on board with a wide open interpretation of what constitutes paramilitary training intended to foment “civil disorder.” According to another WFTV 9 article about the Faella case, a conviction for the “crime” of “paramilitary training” does not even require the prosecution to prove any specific plans on the part of the accused:
Prosecutors told jurors that they didn’t have to prove a specific plan, just show the group was doing the training for some sort of civil disorder.
And anti-gun groups argue that training for the potential eventuality of fighting against a tyrannical government constitutes that proof. If they have their way, Florida has indeed outlawed effective militia training–outlawed that which is necessary to the security of a free state. Just who are the domestic enemies, again?
Update: It was brought to the author’s attention that the Oleg Volk photograph that had originally accompanied the article might have given the very wrong impression that Project Appleseed in any way condones fomenting civil disorder. That was not at all the intention, and St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner sincerely apologizes for any confusion caused by the use of that image, which has since been removed.