Tracing Guns

Another absurdity of our Federal gun laws.


In Guns We Trust

An outside look at the inside.

The only way this makes any sense to me is to assume the residents of Kennesaw live their lives in fear.

Of course, you can also try to make sense of this through popular culture. Rich Hall is an American comedian who has been making a living explaining the United States to the British, both through stand-up comedy and through documentaries. As I am totally un-hip, it’s never quite clear to me when his documentaries topple over into BS, but they’re always quite watchable. Hall’s How the West Was Lost might provide some tangential insight into our gun culture. Or not.

No Private Armies

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary…”

Originally published in New Ground 117, March — April, 2008.

by Bob Roman

Back in 1879, Herman Presser was busted for leading, down the streets of Chicago, a parade of armed men from the Instruct and Defend Association. He had no permit for the parade nor had the Association any license from Illinois to function as a militia. Loosely affiliated with the Socialist Labor Party (which eventually forbade joint membership), this militia had been active in Chicago since 1874 as a counter-threat to armed private employer security forces that were frequently used to “discourage,” by any means necessary, strikes and strikers and unions in general. Something of an anarchist, Presser nonetheless appealed his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that his (and the Association’s) rights under the 2nd Amendment had been violated. The Court, no surprise especially as it was 1886 just after Haymarket, decided Illinois and the other states had every right to regulate private militias.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. The infamous private mercenary army, Blackwater, has invaded Illinois, establishing a training facility in northwestern Illinois’ Jo Daviess County. Local citizens, mindful the loose gun play and casual disregard for human rights documented in connection with Blackwater and other “private security firms” react by forming Clearwater. The group has the immediate aim of forcing out a bad neighbor, but its overall mission is “to preserve the public nature and civilian control” of the military and of the police. More information about Clearwater can be found at .

With the active support of Clearwater, Illinois State Representative Julie Hamos (Democrat from Evanston) has introduced HB 5700, a bill that regulates such private security firms as Blackwater. A synopsis of the bill describes it as:

“Creates the Limitations on Private Military Contractors Act. Provides that no State funds shall be used to contract with or purchase services from any private military contractor or related security or law enforcement training entity for training of law enforcement officers or security guards; no military weapons or explosives may be used by private military contractors or related security or law enforcement training operations, except on secured U.S. military bases, other established government-regulated facilities, or government-related facilities designed for that purpose; and, in the event of any natural disaster, civil disorder, labor dispute, or terrorist attack, no personnel trained by any private military contractor shall be used, employed, or contracted with to patrol, guard, control, contain, or arrest any Illinois resident or citizen nor to provide any type of security services of any kind during such emergencies. Effective immediately.”

As New Ground goes to press, HB 5700 had been assigned to the House Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness Committee and a hearing on this and two other items of legislation had been scheduled for March 13 in Springfield. In order for the legislation to go anywhere, members of the Illinois House of Representatives need to hear from you: members of the Committee in particular but not at all exclusively. What the bill needs now is cosponsors. So in addition to asking your representative to support the bill, ask your representative to become a co-sponsor.