Last year, for the first time since the 1940s, Governor Ron DeSantis activated the Florida State Guard, a volunteer civilian military force created to respond to natural disasters and other public emergencies. At the time, DeSantis’s office said that one of the missions of the force would be “to ensure Florida remains fully fortified to respond to not only natural disasters, but also to protect its people and borders from illegal aliens and civil unrest.” 

According to reporting from The New York Times, the State Guard has since been mired in turmoil, as recruits complain that what was supposed to be a civilian disaster response organization is instead a highly militarized force complete with marching drills and weapons instruction — training so militia-like that it prompted some military veterans to quit. Records reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times provide some insight into how the State Guard may have ended up in this form: DeSantis’s administration hired a combat training company, Stronghold SOF Solutions, to recruit, vet, and train volunteers, agreeing to pay the company up to $1.2 million. 

And among Stronghold SOF Solutions’ listed instructors is Eddie Gallagher, a former Navy SEAL who has been accused of multiple war crimes. Those who served with Gallagher have described him as “evil,” “toxic,” and “perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving.” It’s not clear if Gallagher has a role training State Guard recruits — just as it wasn’t clear last year if Gallagher had a role in Stronghold SOF Solutions’ training session for Tallahassee police officers. The company’s website, the Tampa Bay Times reported, advertises “Training with Eddie.”

The Florida State Guard can be deployed to emergencies across the country, per the Tampa Bay Times. And other than its training methods, the Florida State Guard stands apart from similar state forces in two other ways: It’s under DeSantis’s direct command, and it includes an armed unit. “I’m not saying it’s a red flag,” a former New York State Guard member told The New York Times. “But I’ll say it’s unusual.”

What to Know Today

For longtime patrons and former employees, Club Q was singularly special: It was the oldest operating gay bar in Colorado Springs, and a refuge in a city dominated by conservative voices. Survivors of the attack on the nightclub last year are still healing — but members of Colorado Springs’ queer community are stepping up to help. [Them

As U.S. v. Rahimi plays out, other Second Amendment appeals are piling up on the Supreme Court’s doorstep, including from a man who lost his gun rights after falsifying his income on an application for food stamps, and from another who was criminally charged for having marijuana and a loaded rifle in his car. [USA TODAY/The New York Times

As the 2024 presidential campaign intensifies, experts worry that the threat of political violence will, too. The climate of fear is prompting some Beltway professionals — those who work in government, advocacy, and the like in Washington, D.C. — to consider self-defense measures, including arming themselves. [Associated Press/Politico

Local governments reportedly pay billions of dollars to resolve lawsuits related to alleged police misconduct, including shootings. But research shows these settlements account for less than 1 percent of local government budgets. The payouts rarely affect police department budgets, and individual officers aren’t required to contribute, meaning there’s little financial incentive to prevent future misconduct. [USA TODAY

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office dropped an illegal gun charge against New York City Council Member Inna Vernikov, who was arrested last month after social media photos appeared to show her carrying a firearm at a protest in violation of New York’s “sensitive locations” law. The DA cited the Police Department’s finding that the gun Vernikov surrendered was inoperable. [THE CITY

San Antonio residents turned in more than 900 guns at a buyback in exchange for gift cards to beloved grocery chain H-E-B, a response so overwhelming that organizers ended the event hours early because they’d run out of money. Most of the firearms will be destroyed and used to create a public art project. [San Antonio Express-News]


Are Militias Legal?: After receiving several questions from readers, our Ask The Trace series examines militia groups, from the Constitution to the modern day. (April 2022)