A Missouri state senator from Joplin is taking a different approach to a Second Amendment preservation bill, tying it to an official group of armed volunteers.
Sen. Bill White has proposed the creation of a group known as “the minutemen of the state” that can be called into service by the governor in the event of a state of emergency. Volunteers can join by enrolling with the Department of Public Safety and would be required to secure their own firearms, ammunition, uniforms and other supplies.
While the bill would create a force that would rarely be used, White said, the larger purpose is to protect gun ownership rights that he views as being under threat by a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in Congress.
“It’s a novel approach to Second Amendment protections,” White said. “Because of the requirement of this bill to provide your own firearms and because those firearms become property of the state, the fed has no ability to regulate them or tax them.”
White said he expects the bill to go through the committee hearing process soon, but he is also prepared to see it languish, giving him the opportunity to refine it for next year’s session.
The bill has the same intent as other Second Amendment protection acts.
The Missouri House in February passed a bill that banned local police from enforcing federal gun laws, for instance — Newton County in Missouri and Cherokee County in Kansas passed similar measures for their jurisdictions.
Such laws and resolutions are viewed by legal experts as largely ceremonial, intended to be symbolic yet not legally binding.
Critics of White’s bill have pointed to its creation of yet another volunteer force — Missouri already has the Missouri National Guard and the Missouri Defense Force, a civilian defense organization.
The use of the term “minutemen” has connotations of militia because of its history. The first appearance of the term surfaced in the 1640s, said John Daley, a history professor at Pittsburg State University.
“They were authorized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony government, but locally they organized into training bands,” Daley said. “This was back when western Massachusetts was considered the frontier. Before then, any man 16 to 60 was automatically in it for local defense.”
The colony could draw troops from these trained bands and have them ready to fight, Daley said. More than 100 years, later, after the acts that started the fires of the Revolutionary War, the minutemen were called to fight the British troops that they had been assisting from afar.
Because of the connection to the Revolutionary War, Daley said, the term can be romanticized by groups wary of perceived government overreach.
White said the purpose of his minutemen bill would be for events that create a state of emergency across all of Missouri. and the requirement of 75% approval from the Missouri Legislature, he said, ensures any reason for its mobilization would have broad acceptance.
“This is not a brownshirt type of organization,” White said. “It’s designed to deal with an armageddon type of scenario. Not something the level of the Joplin tornado or New Madrid earthquake, but something bigger.”
Because Democrats and Republicans commonly spar in campaigns over gun control, with Democrats favoring tougher laws and more protections, presidential years commonly see spikes in gun sales and active campaigns from gun rights supporters.
But since the mid-1990s, gun laws have loosened, not strengthened. The last attempt to pass meaningful gun control was in 2013.
While advocates for more control have expressed optimism in President Joe Biden’s administration, the Democrats’ majority in the Senate is slim and would require support from Republicans.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden called for more action after two mass shootings in the span of a week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate would pick up a bill passed by the House that would close a gun show loophole and expand background checks for most gun sales and transfers.
White said background checks aren’t covered in his bill.
“That may take another sentence in my bill,” White said. “This bill affects when you own a firearm, and the background check occurs before that.”