MSU Expert in Political Violence Concerned About Missouri ‘Minutemen’ Bill

Mar 4, 2021

The Missouri Capitol building in Jefferson City.
Credit david_shane / Flickr

A Missouri State University professor who researches political violence says he’s concerned about a Missouri bill that would establish minutemen who could be called to take up arms in defense of the state. Dr. David Romano, the Thomas G. Strong Professor of Middle East Studies, said he sees some similarities between the minutemen force that would be created under Senate Bill 528 and militias in other parts of the world.

KSMU’s Jennifer Moore spoke with Romano, and you can hear their interview below.

Romano said a number of things in Senate Bill 528 are concerning to him, including the requirements that the identities of the minutemen remain hidden from the public and that the state cannot be held liable for the actions of the minutemen.  With traditional law enforcement, there tends to be more transparency and accountability.

Romano said some militias that have operated in secrecy in other parts of the world, including Iraq and Turkey, have led to abuses of power.

"During the counterinsurgency campaign in Turkey at its height in the late '80s, '90s, when the Turkish government had peaceful political activists that it didn't have evidence to put in jail or round up, but nonetheless wanted eliminated, it would send these forces to go get rid of them," Romano said. "So my my kneejerk reaction when I see a bill like this is to say, 'Oh, no, no, not here, too.'"

Under the bill, minutemen would answer to the governor, not the federal government. 

We reached out to Missouri Senator Bill White, the sponsor of the Missouri Minutemen bill.  He said unlike examples in other parts of the world, his bill has checks and balances that would prevent a governor from abusing power. White said the names of the minutemen members would be known by state officials—but that their identities could not be made public.  Members’ names would be exempt from Missouri’s open-records law.  We plan to interview Senator White next week.

Here's a summary of Senate Bill 528.   And you can read the full text of the bill as it was introduced here.