An unofficial organization in Halifax County — the Halifax Militia — is seeking official recognition.
The Halifax County Board of Supervisors discussed adopting a resolution formally recognizing the militia at its Sept. 8 meeting. The vote on the resolution was tabled.
Mitzi Thompson, commander of the Halifax County Militia, told The Gazette in a follow-up interview that she would like for the militia to have official recognition from the county government.
“That way, they could notify us if they need our help, because we are a voluntary organization,” Thompson said. “We want to be able to bring something to the table that’s beneficial to our community.”
The proposed resolution under consideration by the county’s board of supervisors supports opportunities for citizens to “assemble for recreational and civic purposes to train to arms to include, but not limited to, firearms safety training, marksmanship, first aid training and other training and activities that enhance the individual’s ability to defend himself, his family, his community; and the Militia’s ability to respond effectively to a crisis.”
Thompson also answered questions about the Halifax County Militia’s role in the community in the follow-up interview. She explained the militia is designed to “supplement,” not take the place or do the job of, local law enforcement agencies, and respond to emergencies in the community such as natural disasters.
“We’re not trying to be law enforcement officers. What we’re trying to do is create that supplement. We’re an extra pair of eyes. We’re extra bodies,” Thompson explained. “If something in the future did happen and the law enforcement were overwhelmed in some kind of way, we do have the training to come out and assist them.”
Currently, Thompson said the militia is focused on the “non-law enforcement” side of things: disaster response, and search and rescue.
One of Thompson’s primary goals for the militia is for its members to form a certified K-9 search and rescue team.
All the members of the militia undergo “basic” training in skills such as firearms safety, weapon proficiency, riot control, military tactics, unarmed self-defense, first aid, and search and rescue, Thompson said. She added militia members also will take FEMA courses so they will be “call out qualified” to respond to natural disasters.
“We’ve gone through all the basics. As we get new members, we bring people up to speed before we move forward,” the militia commander explained.
The Halifax County Militia was formed in February, in response to proposed gun control legislation. Thompson related that she had attended the gun rights rally on Lobby Day (Jan. 20) in Richmond, and shortly thereafter, she responded to a militia call for Halifax County and Pittsylvania County in Red Oak. At the call, everyone with military training was asked to step forward. Thompson, a former military officer, stepped forward and ending up taking the lead as commander of the militia.
“The Halifax County Militia was formed that day,” Thompson explained. “In February, a lot of militias started forming all over Virginia. It was a movement.”
Four people showed up for training at the new militia’s first muster, but the number of members doubled at each subsequent muster and has grown “significantly” from its humble beginnings, Thompson related. She called the group part of a “grassroots movement” to let Virginia’s lawmakers know they oppose their decision to pass gun control laws that the “general population disagrees with,” noting there were “30,000 to 50,000 people” at the gun rights rally in Richmond on Lobby Day. The rally was an extension of the Second Amendment sanctuaries movement, in which counties and localities pass resolutions prohibiting the enforcement of gun control measures they view as being in violation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Here in the United States, the people are in control, not the government,” Thompson said. “In this day and age, people are losing those patriotic foundations. Let’s get people involved in their community again…teach people the proper way to use firearms.”
The Halifax County Militia commander said members are between the ages of 16 and 55, in accordance with Virginia Code 44-1, which states the militia of Virginia “of all able-bodied residents of the Commonwealth” must be between those age ranges. However, children of the Halifax militia members and the elderly offer volunteer support to the militia’s operations.
The Code also states the militia will be “divided into three classes: the National Guard, which includes the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard; the Virginia Defense Force; and the unorganized militia.”
Thompson said the Halifax Militia is under the class of “unorganized militia.”