The Minutemen are forming in Madison County.
Months after Madison became one of more than 100 Virginia counties and cities to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary, Madison County resident Matthew Hooser is seeking support for the establishment of an unorganized militia.
The Madison County Minutemen Quick Reaction Force would be a group of law-abiding citizens volunteering to protect and support the county in times of crisis including natural disasters, war and the infringement upon the rights of citizens. Unorganized militias are allowed by title 44, chapter one of the Code of Virginia with section four explaining the composition of such militia.
The movement to create local militias is the next in the response to gun laws moving through the Virginia General Assembly. Several counties throughout the Commonwealth are considering the measure, with Tazewell County leaders having already voted to form a militia. Virginia is leading the charge for the militias, offering draft resolution language to be presented to local officials.
The language puts the board of supervisors or sheriff in charge of calling for a voluntary muster of the unorganized militia. It contains conditions such as clothing and preferred weaponry, but also that volunteers would undergo background checks, skills assessments and have their contact information compiled into a list for contacting in the event of an emergency.
A revised draft by Hooser removes specific weapon references as well as a requirement limiting volunteers to the ages of 18- 55. Hooser said the language was changed in response to feedback from county supervisors and Sheriff Erik Weaver. Hooser presented the document to them to discuss their thoughts and concerns.
An Army veteran and engineer, Hooser said, he’s aware of the negative connotation some give to the word “militia.” However, he said that’s not at all what he’s promoting. He said the idea is volunteer citizens working under the guidance of the sheriff’s department and board of supervisors to support and assist their community.
“This is our county,” he said. “It’s where we live. This is taking the opportunity to get more people interested in what is going on in their community and assist their community.”
Hooser said he’s seeking board support for the Minutemen because it’s a community-based group contributing back to Madison County. Minutemen members would be made reserve deputies under the sheriff. This is to give them the abilities of law enforcement since they may need to fulfill some law enforcement duties, such as guarding a flooded road in a natural disaster.
Being under the guidance of the supervisors or the sheriff and having background checks on members legitimizes the group, Hooser said also noting that having background checks offers some credibility.
Anyone can start an unorganized militia, but this way there’d be some oversight, he said. A militia wasn’t always on the mind of Hooser. He said he was happy to be left alone, living a peaceful, quiet life playing with his kids, but when the government begins pushing bills that would take contributing members of society and deem them as felons due to the firearms they own, that’s not okay.
“As a veteran, when I start seeing the state take action against the community, it’s not a lot different than what I saw third world dictators do,” Hooser said. “I’m concerned with how the government is moving toward citizens. “I would like [the situation in Richmond] to turn out peacefully,” he added. “I can hope for peace, but prepare for the worst. This is putting the framework [for the militia] in place and if we never have to use it, I’m okay with that.”
The resolution, which is a call for a county muster, is just the first step. During the muster, those interested in volunteering would attend and assessment of equipment and training would occur. This would determine what skillsets would need to be taught. Hooser said things like first aid and CPR would empower the people of the county to be able to assist in any situation, not just within the Minutemen capacity.
Hooser said after the assessment, a board would be created establishing a rank structure. The group would then meet occasionally for training. To some, the idea of a militia in Madison County is an unwelcome thought.
A letter sent to the board of supervisors from 13 citizens opposed Hooser’s resolution, though he noted that none have contacted him with their concerns. The letter focuses on the costs of such a measure and does not address an opinion on gun control or militias.
Instead, the 13 letter writers seek to know how the county plans to pay for a 30-member militia, which it estimates at $185,580 in the first year and $118,380 thereafter not including liability insurance. The costs would come from application costs, estimated at $240 per person including physicals and drug screenings; uniform costs, estimated at $2,000 per person; annual training at the Shenandoah Criminal Justice Training Academy, $620 per person; an estimated cost of $13,333 to maintain and fix uniforms; an additional part-time administrative staff member to handle paperwork and logistics, approximately $15,000; an in-house certified firearms trainer, estimated at $30,000; one additional part-time deputy sheriff staff member to supervise and train volunteers, estimated at $15,000; and $26,447 in additional workers’ compensation insurance. The estimated costs far outweigh the need of a militia, the letter states.
However, Hooser said he isn’t seeking any funding from the county. He said training would be done through in-kind donations of those with the applicable skillsets.
“Let’s put the rhetoric aside and let out actions and service to the community speak for us,” Hooser said. “This is concerned citizens working incooperation. We’re not asking for opposition of law enforcement, but to work with law enforcement.”
In addition to the Madison County Minutemen resolution, Hooser is also suggesting a resolution that would financially support local law enforcement. The resolution would create the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Net Fund. The fund would be used to financially support law enforcement personnel should the state punish them for not enforcing unconstitutional laws, namely those that infringe upon the second amendment.
The fund would be comprised of “appropriated amounts from any other funding sources required, as well as charitable donations and contributions from non-tax revenue sources, citizens, organizations and other entities.”
The resolution states that the fund would be created, funded and enacted within 90 days of the resolution’s passing and overseen by the board of supervisors, the sheriff and a Minutemen Board of Trustees comprised of 3-5 members.
“This [would be] county residents and the county stepping up to support law enforcement,” Hooser said. “It’s a community based movement looking to promote the good hardworking sheriff and deputies.”
Hooser was expected to present both resolutions during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s board meeting.