A friend and customer of mine (he's from OH) wrote in the following letter to the editor of his local paper. My friend
is a fellow engineer and ardent 2nd amendment supporter. I thought this was a great synopsis of what the "militia"
is here in the USA. It's a good read, and I think it should be passed around.
Here is what "MG" sent out:
"In the current debate over gun control, there are a lot of assertions being made by various writers about the meaning of the Second Amendment's phrase "a well regulated Militia" and who is included in it. Much of what is being alleged by both sides is either incomplete or inaccurate.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which was adopted in 1787 gave Congress the powers:
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.
However the Constitution did not define "militia." This was not an oversight. The country was very young and was still looking for a workable balance between the powers on the national government and those of the several states. Every state had its own militia law in place since long before the Revolution and arguably it was intended to let these laws govern insofar as practical the composition of the militia. While these various state militia laws differed, they all generally defined the militia as being composed of all adult males. They all defined the organization and training of the state militias. The militia laws required that every member maintain a rifle and ammunition. These militias existed not only to defend against marauding Indians but also to provide law enforcement in the absence of an organized police force. Militia members were generally required not only to "raise a hue and cry" but also to intervene as armed citizens to protect others from criminal activity.
In some states, such as Massachusetts, these laws also provided for an Organized Militia made up of volunteers from the militia. The Minutemen were this organized militia and the predecessors of today's National Guard but they were not the whole of the militia.
The Second Amendment was adopted four years later in 1791. It stated simply:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The United States had just fought a war against the most powerful nation in the world and would soon fight another. The need for national defense was obvious but the citizens of post-Revolutionary America did not trust any government, not even their own. They had seen how a once-benevolent government could turn to tyranny and how a standing army could to be instrument of that tyranny. It was generally believed that in a republic the citizens all had a stake in the survival of the nation and all had a duty to defend it. This Amendment simply guaranteed that they would always have the means to do so without having to rely on what was seen as potentially dangerous standing army.
While the Constitution and its Amendments lay out the framework for the governance of the United States, they do not go into specifics. The laws passed by Congress fill out that framework. Congress did this almost immediately after the adoption of the Second Amendment by passing the Militia Acts of 1792.
The First Militia Act extended to the President the power to call forth the Militia granted to Congress in the Constitution. This was neither a power grab by President Washington nor an attempt to tear down the separation of powers. It was merely an acknowledgement of the fact that Congress was not always in session and that if a military emergency arose when they were not, the Commander in Chief would need the ability to exercise this power.
The Second Militia Act which was made permanent in 1795 defined the makeup of the militia as:
...each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years.
Since many of those who sat in Congress in 1792 had also been delegates to the Constitutional Convention, this is the clearest statement we have of what the Framers intended by "militia."
In an effort to improve upon the existing patchwork system of state militia laws it further provided:
That every citizen...shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder... and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound
In contemporary terms, this would be the equivalent of requiring every adult citizen to possess an AR-15, 200 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, seven magazines and appropriate web gear. This is essentially what is done in Switzerland today. The Swiss experience alone might indicate that the cause of America's problems with violence may lie somewhere other than the availability of certain types of firearms
The Militia Act of 1862 effectively removed the requirements of "free" and "white" from the definition of militia by allowing African-Americans to serve in the military during the Civil War.
The Militia Act of 1903 and its 1908 amendments repealed and replaced the Militia Act of 1792. It held:
That the militia shall consist of every able-bodied male citizen of the respective States, Territories, and the District of Columbia, and every able-bodied male of foreign birth who has declared his intention to become a citizen, who is more than eighteen and less than forty-five years of age, and into two classes - the organized militia, to be known as the National Guard of the State, Territory, or District of Columbia, or by such other designations as may be given them by the laws of the respective States or Territories, and the remainder to be known as the Reserve Militia.
This definition of the Reserve Militia was used to define in whole or in part the Selective Service conscription pool for both World Wars and Korea.
The current law 10 USC § 311 adopted in 1956 and last amended in 1993 provides that:
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
There have been several other Acts dealing with the organization, operation and duties of the militia. But those cited above are the ones which deal with its composition. One thing which has remained constant for the last 221 years and remains true today is that the militia as defined by the laws of the United States is not limited to the National Guard as some people would have us believe.
Whichever side of the current debate one may be on, it would be at best disingenuous to ignore the history and current meaning of militia and its effect on that debate.
This needs to be read in every Civics class, from elementary through college level.
It wouldn't hurt to have this read on the floors of both House & Senate either... They could use a reminder...
The 2nd amendment doesn't protect the militia - note the comma in the statement.
Good write up.
Nice post OP