Opinion: How the GOP enables private ‘militias’ and the terrorist threat they pose

It’s probably the kind of people who stormed the Capitol on January 6: far-right anti-government extremists in the grip of paranoid conspiracy theories, paunchy white guys who fancy themselves defenders of liberty while running around the woods in military cosplay. It’s the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, the Boogaloo Bois. It’s the people who have allegedly killed cops and plotted to kidnap the governor of Michigan. That’s what “militia” means to most of us in 21st century America. But even as that is the reality on the ground, and even as most militia activity is actually illegal under state law, the dangerous ideology that drives those extremists is propped up not only by Republican politicians but by Republican-appointed judges. That came through in a striking federal court decision handed down late last week, when U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez struck down California’s ban on assault-style weapons. The decision has gotten attention in part because it reads like a cross between an advertisement for the AR-15 (“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment”) and the stylings of a pre-law freshman trying to turn what he heard on Fox News into something resembling legal prose. But the most notable part may be this, when Judge Benitez quite literally says that the reason AR-15s should be legal is because they’d be useful if you wanted to overthrow the American government: Before the Court there […]

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