The so-called Texas "anti-paramilitary law"

by Jon Roland

One occasionally hears about an alleged Texas "anti-paramilitary" law, generally misreported in conjunction with a case against the KKK arising from events on the Gulf Coast involving some Vietnamese fisherman, who they were accused of intimidating.

There is a statute that predates the lawsuit — for injunction — and was cited in it. This article discusses the case. But the statute cited in the court opinion, Tex.Rev.C iv. Stat.Ann., art. 5780, s 6 (Vernon), has been replaced with Government Code 431.010, which provides in relevant part, and note the highlighted words:

Sec. 431.010.  ORGANIZATION PROHIBITED.  (a)  Except as provided by Subsection (b), a body of persons other than the regularly organized state military forces or the troops of the United States may not associate as a military company or organization or parade in public with firearms in a municipality of the state.

(b)  With the consent of the governor, students in an educational institution at which military science is a prescribed part of the course of instruction and soldiers honorably discharged from the service of the United States may drill and parade with firearms in public.

Note several things about this:
1. It is in the Government Code, which governs only state or local government personnel. There is no penalty for violation, except perhaps being suspended or fired from a government job, or being civilly sued for injunction, as the KKK was.
2. The phrase "in a municipality" means "within city limits", so it doesn't apply to areas outside city limits.

This is sometimes cited by anti-gun activists as a stronger law than it is. They lie a lot. Other than that one case, which only cited it incidentally, it has never been enforced on anyone, and people violate it in cities all across the state every Fourth of July. Boy scouts violate it when they go for their merit badges in marksmanship and parade or practice within city limits.

If you really want to muster with arms within a city (and we did within San Antonio April 19, 1994) and don't want to get sued for injunction, we can ask the Gov. for permission. As we are honorably discharged veterans we can probably get it.

A couple of points need to be made about the case cited above. I have no sympathy for the KKK. Morally, they deserved worse than they got. However, as a matter of law, I don't find that the federal court had jurisdiction, and that while a state court would have been within its jurisdiction to order the KKK to cease and desist their intimidation, and even pay damages, it is unconstitutional for any court to order a group to disband. The First Amendment protects the right of association, even among jerks like the KKK.