Senator, army vet says he, his son and grandson could have been victims of paramilitary training ban bill

When retired U.S. Army officer Terry Williams and family members took to the woods in camo and with military-appearing firearms, could they have been reported as ‘paramilitary militia’? TW Facebook photo

by Sen. Terry Williams

Editor’s Note: S.3, ‘prohibiting paramilitary training camps,’ sponsored by Sen. Phil Baruth, has passed the Vermont Senate. In a note received Friday, Sen. Terry Williams explains why he opposed it.

My grandson decided to quit college and go in the Army.  Once he signed up, he started asking his father and me about what training we had and what training he would need to successfully complete his basic combat training.  He has been shooting, hunting and fishing with us since he was old enough to complete his hunter safety course.  He is a member of a local shooting range, and he goes to that range with his father regularly.  He is an avid outdoorsman and sportsman.

My two sons and I are combat veterans and have had extensive military training and, by virtue of our rank and leadership positions were all military trainers.

My family owns some timberland on top of a mountain in Southern Vermont. We took my grandson up to our hunting camp to start his training.  This training included basic land navigation with a map and compass, navigating using terrain association, proper movement techniques in wooded, mountainous terrain, how to identify possible ambush locations, etc.  

My neighbor and I have had a history of disputes over a right of way and boundaries of our property where we were doing this training for my grandson.  Consequently, he didn’t like me very much.  We nearly ended up in court a couple of times and the dispute had the potential to become physical at one point.  This went on for 33 years.

When we went to my property to train my grandson, we were all wearing the military uniforms and load-bearing equipment that we all owned, and we carried modern sporting rifles because we all know that you “train the way you fight” which means with the equipment you will have carry and fight with.  

If S.3 is signed into law, and I believe that it will, and my neighbor knew we were there training with my grandson, he would have a reason to turn us in as operating a para-military camp.  So, once this bill passes into law, who will decide what is a para-military training or a para-military training camp?  Doesn’t our Vermont constitution provide for militia training in small towns?  I think it does.

I won’t get into the optics part of the many recent bills presented by Senator Baruth and others in this legislative body, but he used (and went into quite a bit of detail on the senate floor about) the situation with the shooting range in Pawlet owned by Mr. Daniel Banyai to justify passage of this bill.  In fact, there are always two sides to every story and somewhere in between lies the truth of that whole situation.  Senator Baruth doesn’t know the entire story.

If there is a message in this response, it is that the Vermont legislature and others here in Montpelier continue to pass feel good, redundant laws which will never be enforced until people who don’t know the whole story want them to be.

I will always question the constitutionality of bills like S.3, S.4, S.11, S.31, S.40, S.57 and S.22.  The framers of our US and Vermont constitution expected better than what I am seeing from this legislature. 

The author is a state senator for Rutland County.

Categories: Commentary

21 replies »

  1. Sen. Williams points are valid, and all proposed legislation needs to pass a constitutional validity test. baruth’s S.3 and most of his other sponsored legislation seems to fulfill his personal agenda, with none passing constitutional muster as I interpret Vermont’s Constitution. Chapter 1 Article 16 states: That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State–and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power.
    Pretty clear stuff- and baruth either feels himself above such law or ignorant of this law. I’d say the former- and he hopes we are the ignorant ones.
    In fact- the most disturbing aspect of this entire 2023 legislative body is the contempt of these “elected leaders” to follow Vermont’s Constitution. Case in point, Chapter 2, Sections 16 and 17 deal with the two oaths or affirmations required of them, upon taking office:
    You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as a member of this Assembly, you will not propose, or assent to, any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to you injurious to the people, nor do nor consent to any act or thing whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State; but will, in all things, conduct yourself as a faithful, honest Representative and guardian of the people, according to the best of your judgment and ability. (In case of an oath) So help you God. (Or in case of an affirmation) Under the pains and penalties of perjury.
    Again, written clearly with intent- I’m not seeing any ‘gray’ areas between the black ink and white paper- so why do a majority of current legislators? This session appears to be all about pushing the limits of constitutional law, to extract a result for minority groups and special interests.
    We too, as citizens and voters have responsibilities given us in the Constitution:
    Chapter 1 Article 18, requiring us (voters) to: the people ought, therefore to pay particular attention to these points, in the choice of officers and representatives, and have a right, in a legal way, to exact a due and constant regard to them, from their legislators and magistrates, in making and executing such laws as are necessary for the good government of the State.
    Chapter 2 Article 41, in voter’s qualifications (Freeman’s Oath)
    And it certainly appears we, as citizens and voters have failed in our responsibilities.
    Perhaps S.3 will pass and become law, if so at some point it will be challenged in our courts- hopefully not because or by Sen. Williams.

    • The sponsors of this bill are people who have no knowledge about firearms and who are afraid of anything that bangs or goes bump in the night. They have no respect for the generations of Vermonters and their traditions of responsible gun ownership. To the sponsors of this bill, two kids shooting at rubber armymen with BB Guns in a back yard sand box would be construed as involved in paramilitary training. Yes, they are that foolish…

  2. How would one legally define “paramilitary training”? Would Sen. Baruth have a problem with a youth camp that promotes “social justice” activism, since we have seen that some “mostly peaceful protests” in the George Floyd era have escalated into serious violence? As long as no illegal acts are being promoted or taught, there would surely be 1st Amendment issues at play with this proposal. If someone invites friends over to their rural property for some target shooting and someone brings along a curious acquaintance who has never fired a gun, would that constitute a violation? Sen. Baruth’s ignorance of this issue just affirms my definition of a leftist as someone who regards the US Constitution as an impediment to social justice. The people of Chittenden County who keep voting for this man really should have their heads examined. Vermont has one too many college-level English Professors.

  3. Thank you Senator Williams for standing up for our rights.

    This bill was only about Phil Baruth agenda, ANTI-forearm agenda. Also about his goal to closing down the guy in Pawlet. That is a local zoning issue, that no one took care of. The Progs/Dems leadership is acontinuing to assault and take our U.S. Const. 2A and VT.’s Ch. 1 Art. 16 rights away!

    Stand up people and fight back like Senator Williams now or tomorrow will be to late.

  4. When I first read of this bill, and read it, I immediately thought of the Second Amendment’s text, particularly the phrase “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….” At the time it was written, the word regulated was understood to mean trained, competent. It seems to me that “militia” training would be a part of that.

    • Agreed, a person, untrained in handling and using a firearm, is a danger to themselves and others.
      Why else does the state require hunter safety courses?

    • FROM THE FOUNDERS 2nd AMENDMENT by Stephen P. Halbrook

      1774 – British General Gage takes over as governor of the Massachusetts colony and 36 Tories are appointed to the Massachusetts council by King George III

      Gage restricts the distribution of gunpowder and has 300 barrels of gunpowder seized. Gage realizing, he is outnumbered restricts powder & shot trying to use “ammo control” to disarm the people. Guns, powder and shot were however considered private property.

      On October 17th Gage is ordered to confiscate arms especially long guns but knows this is not practicable and as the colonies get wind of what is happening in Massachusetts start arming themselves.

      King George III bans the importation of guns to the colonies also the importation of gunpowder, saltpeter and lead.

      1775 – On April 16th the Battle of Lexington & Concord takes place and the British start seizing arms in earnest. Women are hiding guns and children are making cartridges.

      April 17th Gage starts to disarm Boston and on June 17th Gage proclaims that anyone in Boston who has not turned their arms are to be considered enemies of his majesty. On July 6th in Virginia Jefferson and Dickenson draw up the Declaration of Causes of Taking Up Arms and militias start to form.

      On May 10th Ethan Allen captures the British Fort Ticonderoga. September 16th the New York Provincial Congress orders the seizure of arms with the promise to be compensated. for them. (The First Buy Back?) Bills of Attainder’s, or legislative trials are held without the ability to rebut the charges.

      1776 – In April the British order the Repression of Pamphlets (Thought Crime) and firearms and other properties are seized and forfeited.

      July 4th The Colonies Declare their independence.

  5. This will be a perennial difficulty as lone as we continue to empower folks whose agenda driven ideas like “guns bad” are sent to represent us. If they are not clear on what the constitution is trying to protect us from…don’t vote for them. If they babble non-sense like what they’ve put up here, contact them with your objections.

  6. “What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty …. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.”
    – Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, I Annals of Congress 750, August 17, 1789

  7. March 10th, 2023 at 10 am on Montpelier Capital front lawn. peaceful protest are needed. “OUR STATE TOO” would love to see thousands of people take over the lawn in Montpelier. just signs saying no more gun legislation. wait til ten o clock when they are in session. everyone meet on lawn organized. anyone want to work with me on this pm me and lets do it. make Vermont Affordable, no new gun laws and leave fish and wildlife to biologist not zealot’s. spread the word to anyone that you think would actual do this. THEY LIKE TO TAKE OUR MONEY, TAKE OUR GUNS AND TAKE OUR VERMONT RIGHT TO HUNT AND FISH AWAY!

  8. “The right of the people peaceably to assemble.”
    Practicing with guns is, indeed, peaceable, even if some people don’t like guns.

  9. From the web site Bearing Arms by Glyon Oct. 5th, 2013.


    The Supreme Court in the Heller decision explained that the second amendment guarantees an individual right of the people to keep and carry arms for their defense in the event of a confrontation. The anti-gun crowd, however, refuses to accept this common sense reading of the amendment. The best way to interpret the Constitution begins with actually reading it.  The next best thing is to read what the Constitution’s chief drafter, James Madison, had to say about America’s founding document.  Madison was the chief author of the Federalist Papers, along with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton.  The Federalist Papers offer great insight into the political theories of the day that led to our system of government.

    Students of the second amendment should be familiar with both Federalist 29 and 46, which discuss the role of an armed populace in protecting the precious freedom which had so recently been won.  It was that thinking that led to the adoption of the second amendment.

    Madison was also the original drafter of the Bill of Rights, including what would become the second amendment. The anti-gun crowd regularly accuse second amendment supporters of only focusing on what Justice Scalia called the operative clause of the second amendment, the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  They assert that we ignore the prefatory clause that reads, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.”  To them the prefatory clause confirms that the purpose of the amendment was to protect the right of the states to have militias or as they sometimes phrase it, the right to bear arms when in militia service.

    However, beyond that, they never exactly explain what is meant by “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The anti-gun crowd cling to the so-called collective rights view of the amendment that held sway with a number of federal circuit courts pre-Heller.  However, beyond denying an individual right to keep and bear arms, those courts said precious little on exactly what the amendment actually protected.

    It was commonly stated outside the court room that the operative clause meant that the federal government could not disarm the state militias.  But that is not what the amendment says, and no federal circuit court actually provided any reasoned discussion supporting such an interpretation.  In any event, if that were what the amendment was meant to accomplish, one would think the amendment would have been written in some way like “A well-regulated militia being necessary for a free state, Congress shall not infringe the right of the states to arm the militia.” However, this interpretation of the amendment would have worked a radical transformation of Congress’s power over the militia.  The Constitution addresses the militia in Article I, Section 8.  It states “The Congress shall have the power … To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.”

    Thus, it was Congress’s responsibility, not the states, to organize and arm the militia, with the states having only the responsibility to appoint officers and train the militia as Congress mandates.   The militia is not treated by the Constitution as a creature of the several states, but of the nation as a whole to be organized, armed and disciplined by Congress, while being trained by the states as Congress directs.
    Congress has in fact exercised this authority.
    Title 10 of the United States Code, Section 311 defines the militia of the United States with certain exceptions as “all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and … under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and … female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.”  The National Guard is the organized militia, and the unorganized militia consists of those militia members not in the Guard.  In the Second Militia Act, passed in 1792, Congress specified the arms militia members were to have.  It was incumbent on militia members to report for training and duty with their own arms. The second amendment did not change Congress’s authority over the militia, nor was that the intent of the amendment.  Most notably, the second amendment did not provide that the states would or could arm the militia.  If that were the meaning of the second amendment, then states could be free to arm the militia in any way they saw fit.  States could for instance under the collective rights view of the second amendment, authorize each member of the unorganized militia to own a fully automatic weapon such as the M-16.  That would raise issues with respect to the provisions of the National Firearms Act of 1934, which greatly restricts the ownership and transfer of automatic weapons.  States could also abrogate many other federal firearm restrictions. It is certainly the case that some founders, such as Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, feared that Congress would neglect its responsibility to arm the militia.  And so, it is not an unreasonable view that a primary purpose of the second amendment was to ensure that the militia would not be disarmed by taking guns away from the people who constituted the militia.

  10. Ignore these unconstitutional laws that are being passed. Don’t voluntarily give up your rights. When we obey unconstitutional laws and legitimize them we are handing them our rights. Make them use force to make us obey. It’s the only way to expose them.

    Supreme Court Decision – Norton v Shelby County 1886

    6 Am Jur 2d, Sec 177 late 2d, Sec 256:
    The general misconception is that any statute passed by legislators bearing the appearance of law constitutes the law of the land. The US. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statute, to be valid, must be In agreement. It is impossible for both the Constitution and a law violating it to be valid; one must prevail. This is succinctly stated as follows:
    The General rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose, since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. An unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed. Such a statute leaves the question that it purports to settle just as it would be had the statute not been enacted. Since an unconstitutional law is void, the general principles follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority on anyone, affords no protection, and justifies no acts performed under it.… A void act cannot be legally consistent with a valid one. An unconstitutional law cannot operate to supersede any existing valid law. Indeed, insofar as a statute runs counter to the fundamental law of the lend, it is superseded thereby. No one Is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it. The Supreme Court’s decision is as follows; “An unconstitutional act is not law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; affords no protection; it creates no office; it in legal contemplation, as inoperative as though it has never been passed”. Norton vs Shelby County 1886 – 118 US 425 p.442.

    Thomas Jefferson: “Whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, it’s acts are authoritative, void and of no force”.

    • Your citation is correct and inspiring. But caveat emptor. It’s the legal battle that will do you in.

      Khris Kristofferson was right.

      Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,
      And nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free,…
      And buddy, that was good enough for me.

      • Jay, what does the average citizen do when this rogue occupation government is violating about a half a dozen Supreme Court decisions that have already clarified the law and upheld our rights, yet they still try to pass these laws.

  11. Ban militias then they can say the 2nd amendment is null and void because you don’t have a regulated militia as required in the 2nd amendment. That is why they want this bill passed.

  12. So now, with this bs about to be passed by loser “leaders” every deer camp, every father sons team Turkey hunting can and will be labeled by no minds a paramilitary training camp ,,,😂😂😂 how stupid is that ??? Keep voting in these dumb asses, eventually you’ll get way more than you’re bargaining for 👍

    • Yeah, they’ll never take away that old hunting rifle with the scope on it that your dad passed on to you. At least not until they classified it a sniper rifle.

  13. PATRIOTS RISING – This is why they want our guns!

    In 2014 a small army of heavily armed federal agents tried to confiscate land and killed Cliven Bundy’s livestock, which they deemed were on federal land. As of January 8th 2018, a federal judged that the government was in the wrong.

    Men armed with the same type and style of weapons as the agents, held the line and drove a federal land-grab back. Over time, Mr. Bundy won his case against the government. This was a blip in the mainstream media news. Why? Because it shows what happens when patriots resist a government that is willing to take what is not theirs by force when met with equal force.

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