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Number of unorganized militias in Virginia grows, protected under Constitution

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2020, file photo, members of the Floyd County militia gather for a muster call. (WSET){p}{/p}{p}{/p}
FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2020, file photo, members of the Floyd County militia gather for a muster call. (WSET)

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BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WSET) -- Militias are forming in counties across Virginia in response to gun legislation that's being passed in Richmond.

Floyd County held the first militia muster in the area in January.

Bedford County followed suit two weeks ago. People in Campbell County will gather on Saturday for their militia muster.

Wes Gardner is one of the organizers for the muster in Bedford County. He said this is their response to overreaching gun laws.

"This is the next natural progression from sanctuary status," said Gardner. "We've been lobbying, we've been making phone calls, we've been sending emails."

Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney, Wes Nance, said what these folks are doing is protected under the Constitution.

"These individuals who are conducting these musters are exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of speech, they're exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, and they're exercising their Constitutional right to possess and bear arms," said Nance.

Virginia Code 44-1 defines the four sections of Virginia's militia which includes the unorganized militia.

Anyone ages 16 to 55 can join an unorganized militia, according to Virginia's code.

Nance said what we're seeing is a political movement.

"It is not against the law to suggest that you are going to protect your rights if you feel that they're challenged, so long as you protect your rights in a legal way, the criminal justice system does not have to intercede in any way," said Nance.

Nance said it's still too early to know what the new gun laws will look like in July, how they'll be enforced, and how these militias will respond, but right now he doesn't see an issue.

"I don't see any concerns with these meetings. In fact, if you ask me, these individuals are simply patriots," said Nance.

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