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Recruiting trail: Enlisting members could mean jail time

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Modified: April 28, 2010 at 4:15 am •  Published: April 28, 2010
Oklahoma House members have made it very clear — militias are bad.

Members voted 98-1 last week for a bill that would make it illegal to recruit members to an unauthorized militia or to the Ku Klux Klan. An unauthorized militia, according to the bill, is one not recognized or OK’d by the commander in chief of the state’s militia (in other words, the governor).

A few things about this story left us scratching our heads. One is the notion that a person could be taken to jail for asking someone else to join an organization. This isn’t an effort to defend the KKK, whose tenets are an affront to any reasonable person, or to defend the militias that have formed around the country. But who will define what constitutes a "militia”? And is criminalizing the act of simply recruiting someone really a road our legislators want to travel?

Also puzzling is the continued inaccurate portrayals of Timothy McVeigh as a militia member. State Rep. Mike Shelton noted in debate that, "In Oklahoma, we have seen the damage done by militia fanatics.” He added that if groups were "going around terrorizing communities, doing drive-by shootings, using ammonium nitrate to blow up buildings,” they’d be considered unauthorized militias.

But McVeigh wasn’t a militia member. He had acquaintances with militia leanings, but the attack on our federal building was plotted and completed by an anti-government loner, not an anti-government militia. Shelton is the latest in a long line of people who have bent those facts to suit a cause.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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