Law Professor Suggests New Law to Undermine White Supremacists

May 27, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
March 7, 2021 - Minneapolis -- Thousands march the day before the start of jury selection in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. The former Minneapolis Police officer is charged with the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020.

WASHINGTON — A Georgetown University law professor called for a new federal law to clamp down on white supremacist militias during a congressional hearing Wednesday.

She said their threats of violence are growing but local law enforcement personnel are unprepared to deal with them.

“This is not a local problem,” said Mary McCord, legal director at Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

She testified before the House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties during one of a series of congressional hearings following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.

Lawmakers at the hearing repeated assertions that the insurrection was a symptom of a bigger problem that could no longer be ignored.

McCord said law enforcement agencies are hampered in their efforts against the militias because they typically must wait until one of their members violates a criminal law, such as assaulting someone or trespassing onto government property.

Only rarely are white supremacists arrested on criminal charges, McCord said. When they are arrested, the police action does minimal damage to the militias.

“Despite the threat, and despite FBI Director Christopher Wray’s testimony that militia violent extremism is one of the most dangerous extremist threats in the United States, private militias continue to recruit, train and deploy largely unimpeded,” McCord said in her testimony.

Some of the militias that participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection include the Oathkeepers, QAnon and the Proud Boys. 

A better option would be a federal law that seeks to undermine and dismantle their organizational efforts that promote violence, McCord said.

“Private militias are not merely a local public safety problem,” she said. “They frequently travel and transport weapons interstate.”

When confronted about their weapons, they typically invoke their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

McCord said the Second Amendment is not the issue as much as risks created by private militias willing to attack government institutions.

“As the January 6 attack demonstrated, [militias] present not only a public safety threat but also a national security threat,” she said.

She recommended a federal law that empowers police and the Justice Department to seek injunctions ordering militia members to cease activities that threaten public safety. 

The law also should allow police to seize their weapons while taking both civil action against the militias and prosecuting them with criminal charges, McCord said.

The lawmakers generally agreed white supremacists must be confronted forcefully.

“The people who stormed the Capitol were not patriots, they were not tourists,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., chairman of the subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties.

He suggested a broader effort by law enforcement agencies to gather evidence on the militias to prevent further violent attacks.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said, “Violence should find no safe harbor in any law or anything we do.”

Statements by lawmakers and witnesses largely paralleled testimony two weeks ago from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland as he spoke before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“The threat of lethality is higher than it ever was,” Garland said. “I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the U.S. Capitol.” 

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