PHOTO/KELSEY PENROSE-SIERRA NEVADA ALLY: Heavily-armed men,, some in military costumes, attend a protest in Carson City in 2020.

Candidate Joey Gilbert held a rally at the Believe sign near Reno City Hall when he had ambitions to become Nevada’s governor. Flanking the stage and spaced at intervals facing the crowd along the south side of the plaza stood about a dozen men in full paramilitary garb.

Did the crowd feel intimidated by Gilbert’s minions? Probably not, if they were Gilbert supporters. But I did.

As a rally marshal in Reno for the past seven years, I have seen firsthand how heavily armed paramilitary groups come out to intimidate citizens with progressive views. There are statutes on Nevada’s books, as there are in all 50 states, forbidding illegal private armed militias. But such laws are difficult to enforce. (For example, the forces at the Gilbert rally claimed when questioned to have come out only as individuals, and all wore different military costumes to circumvent being identifiable as a unit.) Moreover, attorneys general and sheriffs are often reluctant to take action under existing laws, whether from political expediency or, in some cases, because of their own extremist sympathies.

Legislatures in Vermont, Montana and New Mexico are now considering further measures to curb paramilitaries. At the same time, our neighbor to the north, Idaho, is actually contemplating a law to allow these groups—gangs, really—to parade. Heaven knows what that could lead to.

In this climate, provision should be made for Nevada citizens intimidated by paramilitaries while demonstrating, voting or otherwise conducting themselves within their rights to sue for civil penalties. This is a strategy devised by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP), led by Mary McCord. In consultation with ICAP, Oregon Rep. Dacia Grayber has written such a bill, now being considered in that state’s legislature.

Here in Nevada, Democratic assemblywoman and Majority Floor Leader Sandra Jauregui has introduced AB117, which “makes various changes” to Nevada statutes “relating to domestic terrorism.” AB117 does reinforce existing statutes constraining paramilitaries. But as noted, these statutes don’t get enforced.

That is why I urge Assemblywoman Jauregui to strengthen AB117 by amending it along the lines of Rep. Grayber’s bill in Oregon to allow for civil lawsuits and penalties. Citizens should have nonviolent means of resisting intimidation by illegal private armed militias.

Join the Conversation


  1. I don’t feel intimidated by militia groups like this but I’m afraid of Antifa and Black Live Matter. You should concern about these 2 groups; they do intimidating , attacking, burning business even killing innocent people. Forget your “feelings”.
    Militia is within Constitutional right.

  2. I organized the militia response to both the Douglas County counter protest pictured at the top of this article as well as the defense of Joey Gilbert but also several other prominent speakers at the “No Mask, No Mas” rally in downtown Reno. I’ve also organized militia response to several other events in Northern Nevada in Carson City, Fallon, Battle Mountain, and more.

    In all of these cases there was credible intel gathered via internet communications and HUMINT via infiltration within several Antifa and BLM groups which showed probable violent action under the guise of protest (something commonly seen by Antifa and BLM.)

    Our intent is to assist local communities by providing defense to law abiding citizens who wish to speak and be heard at these gatherings as is their constitutional right, free from the intimidation and threats of the violent left. We’re interested in keeping a safe environment as local law enforcement agencies have staffing and budgets cut by activist politicians.

    Most of us are combat veterans from all walks of life. We don’t discriminate & have fellow brothers and sisters of all nationalities. We have gay and trans people within our community. We have respect for and obey law enforcement. We’ll protect anyone’s constitutional right to free speech, even those we might personally disagree with.

    What we won’t do is tolerate brick-throwing, dumpster-burning, window-breaking wanna-be thugs to intimidate or harm our local citizens or police officers & deputies.

    We’re proud to back our local law enforcement personnel in keeping our communities safe.

    We’re individual & proud Americans who want to support and uphold our rights under the Constitution.

    Like us or not, you won’t get rid of us.

  3. Yeah but, the last time I saw guys dressed like you guys was on Jan sixth and just like that time the only trouble in sight was the guys walking around flexing their weapons. Why do they all have their faces covered? Is it because they feel as ridiculous they look? The USA is primed for civil war but the threat isn’t from antifa or Black Lives Matter. It’s coming from these home boys walking around intimidating citizens with weapons of war. Join the army if you wanna kill people. Or go to Ukraine, they would love to see you coming.

  4. Right on, Mr. Shafton. We already have a “well regulated militia” – it’s known as the National Guard. Not a bunch of zealots and ammo-sexuals with God knows who in charge. Their point in showing-up in their faux military garb and deadly weaponry is strictly to intimidate other people. They are not “protecting” anything. Thanks, Mr. Shafton, for your remarks and insights. BTW: I really enjoyed your book on Caples and Clark, although I thought you were a little harsh on Clark and a little too forgiving of Caples freewheeling behavior.

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