Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a. The Blogfather) has a word of warning this week for those who may feel that armed civilian militias roaming the streets of America’s cities are an improvement over the police. The short version is, be careful what you wish for.

Glenn starts out by relating some of the stories that came to us from the CHOP Zone in Seattle as the protests and riots dragged on over the course of the late spring and early summer. Filling the vacuum left by the cops after the Mayor had them pull back, were armed groups who were supposedly there to help keep order. Far from it. Looting and assaults were commonplace and tactics reminiscent of the mafia quickly emerged. One shopkeeper told of how he had been literally paying protection money to a self-styled “guard” who would keep his store safe, but that didn’t work out very well. Even the guard was alarmed by and afraid of Antifa and their armed presence in the zone.

But that’s the overriding message that history has taught us and Reynolds highlights these facts nicely. In the absence of real police, the public will turn where they must for some sort of security. Failing that, they’ll take on the roles of judge, jury and executioner themselves or seek the protections of others willing to do so.

When the government doesn’t provide order, people either organize themselves or they pay organized crime for protection. And while people complain — rightly — that police often fail to observe due process, armed neighborhood groups and mobsters are unlikely to do better.

In a Wall Street Journal article on Minneapolis’s neighborhood patrols, you can see that:

“‘It got to the point where crime had no consequences,’ said Tania Rivera, 30, who runs a child-care center with her mother. ‘It was being done deliberately out in the open. Drive-through drug dealing, drive-through prostitution, everything from gunshots to assaults to sex out in the public. Everything you didn’t want your neighborhood to look like.’

So after a number of community meetings, neighbors began constructing a barrier to close off two blocks of their street, first with trash cans, then debris. For a while, a boat on a trailer protected one intersection. Eventually, a nearby iron maker constructed a permanent gate.

I don’t want to conflate what Reynolds is discussing here with the presence of organized, peaceful militias who participate in protests around the country. I don’t care if you’re talking about conservative groups or BLM activists. If you have identified yourselves as licensed firearm owners who are lawfully carrying, I have zero issues with that. And if you are put in a position where you have to defend yourselves because there are no law enforcement officers around to maintain order, that’s also your right.

I’ve heard from many liberal contacts on social media who keep waiting for conservatives to complain about Black militia members marching at protests while carrying. But I’ve yet to hear one serious conservative who supports the Second Amendment complaining. Liberals simply seem to assume that we’re going to be upset about it. Not so. As long as everyone colors inside of the lines, I say the more the merrier.

But as I noted above, none of these activities are any replacement for the actual police when things go pear-shaped. Reynold also notes that in times when there were no police to call on, fed-up citizens would being administering street justice on their own terms. Such vigilante activity rarely offered much “justice” for the accused and it frequently went very badly for them. We used to know what a world without police looked like. It’s a lesson we seem to have forgotten over the generations, but we’re being reminded of it yet again in 2020 by the mobs taking over the streets. And it’s not a pretty picture.