On May 8th, 2023, a new law was enacted in Vermont that criminalizes the operation or ownership of paramilitary training camps within the state. This law was introduced as a response to an unlicensed firearms training facility that was built by Daniel Banyai and was considered a threat by neighboring communities. While the Green Mountain State is not the only place looking at such legislation, it’s clear that the Daniel Banyai, Slate Ridge incident is making waves as discussions of law, order, and personal rights continue to be debated throughout the United States.
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Daniel Banyai, Vermont, and New Law Limiting Militias
The law Vermont was introduced as a response to Daniel Banyai and his Slate Ridge paramilitary training facility and imposes a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000 for violators. The law also forbids people from gathering with others for certain kinds of training, instruction, or practice. Meaning Banyai and his community are far from the only people being affected.
S.3 (Act 13), which was signed by Governor Phil Scott, prohibits the teaching, training, or demonstration — by using, creating, or applying firearms, explosives, or incendiary devices that may cause harm or death — to be utilized in a civil disorder.
The Vermont Environmental Court is giving Daniel Banyai in West Pawlet, VA until June 23, 2023, to clear the structures that are unlicensed across his 30-acre firearms training center.
Banyai has been in contempt of court for defying court orders since 2019 and neighbors have voiced concerns about gunfire and also claimed they have been subjected to threats and intimidation from Banyai and his supporters.
If Banyai fails to comply, he could face penalties that surpass $100,000 as well as imprisonment. The gun violence prevention group, Giffords, led by former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, commented on Vermont’s legislation:
“Today, Vermont joins 25 other states that prohibit firearms training for anti-government paramilitary activity. Private paramilitary activity is illegal in Vermont and has been associated with the intimidation of people exercising their constitutional rights across the U.S. This is a commonsense policy that will help reduce the spread of dangerous, illegal, and anti-government firearms intimidation,” said Senior Counsel and leader of Giffords’s Guns & Democracy project, Allison Anderman.
There are exemptions to Vermont’s new law, though they remain far away from private militia groups or similar collectives. This includes legitimate law enforcement activities and authorized military science instruction at educational institutions. Additionally, it does not apply to self-defense training or practice, safe firearms handling instruction, and lawful activities such as hunting, target shooting, and firearms collection.
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Other States are Looking into Limiting Militias
Oregon ranks sixth in the U.S. for extremist incidents in the past decade and its state government is in the process of reviewing a bill that may lead to the most inclusive law against paramilitary activity in the country.
In New Mexico, a bill aimed at regulating paramilitary patrols was not approved. Militias were known for attempting to guard the border in an effort to curtail illegal immigration from Mexico.
But notably, one of these patrols attended a protest against the statue of a Spanish Conquistador, gaining attention from the media and government as a man was shot at the protest. However, make no mistake, there are other efforts to propose such bills being brought up throughout the country.
It’s a tricky balance dealing with all the issues that range from basic human rights to political views and more. Many would argue that the Second Amendment would provide protections for groups like these, although others may argue the opposite.
In all fairness, while the Second Amendment does mention militias, the general context seems to point toward the allowance of regulation for states that may need to fend off threats from other governments, including the Federal government.
But it goes even deeper than this. Slate Ridge, Daniel Banyai, and similar groups/individuals all certainly have a responsibility to abide by the law. They should also operate in a safe, responsible manner, but there’s currently a lot to question here about the infringement of rights for individuals gathering together over a legal interest and a Constitutional right.
The Actions of Daniel Banyai Could be a Lesson
Daniel Banyai’s military service has come into question. As it stands now, it appears that he fabricated his record as he was not in the Army. It’s also clear that the ongoing battle with the state of Vermont between himself and the government has many question marks surrounding the legality of his operating status that features unlicensed structures.
But passions run deep on both sides of the issue. On one hand, it makes complete sense that the government is taking this seriously as there have been rising concerns of extremism and a lack of accountability in the case of Slate Ridge.
Still, Slate Ridge is still looking to exercise what many consider to be not only American, but human rights. However, the allegations of intimidation from armed individuals have no place in a law-abiding militia operating for the good of its state or country.
Safety is the responsibility of all gun enthusiasts and this case shows some of the repercussions that can come from a lack of standards. Hopefully, Daniel Banyai and others learn from their errors to conduct future endeavors in a way that is conducive for those on both sides of the fence.
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