RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says heavily armed private militias could be in violation of state law if they mimic police functions like crowd control.
Herring’s advisory opinion comes just days before lawmakers discuss gun laws at a Capitol meeting in what’s expected to be a contentious atmosphere.
A Democratic lawmaker asked Herring for the advisory opinion because she said private militia members intimidated gun-control supporters at a recent legislative session. Gun laws have become a top issue in Virginia after a mass shooting earlier this year in Virginia Beach.
Gun-rights advocate Philip Van Cleave said Herring’s advisory opinion unfairly villainized legal gun owners.
Armed militia groups patrolled a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that erupted in violence. They said they were protecting free speech.