Militia Q&A

Copyright © 1994 Constitution Society. Permission is granted to copy with attribution for noncommercial purposes.

Q: What is the Militia?
A: It was best defined by George Mason, one of the Framers of theU.S. Constitution, who said, "Who are the Militia? They consist now of thewhole people, except for a few public officers."

Q: If they're the whole people, why do we need a special word like "militia"to refer to them?
A: The Militia is the people in a certain capacity, as defenders ofthe community and enforcers of the law. In that capacity, they are expected tohave and use the tools needed to perform that role: personal weapons, andparticularly firearms.

Q: Isn't that what we have the military and police for?
A: Yes, we do hire some of us to perform these duties on afull-time, paid basis. But that does not relieve us of the power or the duty toperform those duties when the situation calls for it.

Q: Power? Don't the military and police have powers ordinary civiliansdon't have?
A: Yes, the police have special powers to enforce certainregulations, like traffic regulations, that civilians don't have. And themilitary can engage in combat operations on foreign soil representing the UnitedStates. But all citizens have general powers to repel invasions, suppressinsurrections, and enforce the laws, the three duties of the Militia, just likethe military and police. They just don't do it on a full-time, paid basis.

Q: Come on. If I tried to go out and enforce some law, wouldn't I besubject to arrest for something? Like impersonating an officer, or maybeobstructing justice?
A: Not if you only tried to enforce the laws that civilians have thepower to enforce, which are laws against felonies and more serious misdemeanors,and didn't misrepresent yourself as an officer, who outranksmost civilians, and who therefore is authorized to issue orders to civilians insituations where he is present and is himself acting in accordance with law. Asfor obstructing justice, anyone, including a law enforcement officer, can dothat. Everyone involved is expected to cooperate with one another in enforcingthe law and not jeopardize one another's legitimate efforts. That applies toeverybody, officers and civilians alike. When there is disagreement about howbest to do that, the dispute is ordinarily resolved by deferring to the officerwith the highest rank, but he may be out of line. Ultimately, it is up to thecourts to decide who is obstructing whom.

Q: So don't federal law enforcement officials outrank state officials, whooutrank local?
A: No, each can investigate and apprehend under all the same laws,just as any citizen can. The problem arises with the attempts by the federal government to extend itsauthority to act against "crimes" that it does not have theconstitutional power to prosecute, and to try such cases in federal courts. TheConstitution delegates only very limited criminal prosecution powers to thefederal government for acts committed on State territory: treason,counterfeiting, and crimes on the high seas and against the laws of nations(that is, war crimes). It has broad legislative authority on federal territory, which includesState land ceded to the federal government by a State Legislature, but there isvery little of that left since Hawaii and Alaska joined the Union. It does notinclude land that is merely owned by the federal government, nor does it includeland on which some activity is conducted that is regulated by the federalgovernment. The federal criminal laws which have been enacted which are not onthe above list are ostensibly based on the constitutional power of the federalgovernment to "regulate" interstate commerce, but it was never theintent of the Framers that the power to regulate was the power to prosecutecriminally, nor was "interstate commerce" intended to includeeverything that ever crossed a state border, or might cross a state border, oris done by a party that operates across a state border, or that might "affect"interstate commerce. This "interpretation" of the interstate commerceclause is clearly unconstitutional, and amounts to amending the Constitution bystatute instead of by the amendment procedure the Constitution prescribes.

Q: That may be the way things once were, back when this country wasfounded and during the frontier era, but does the concept of the Militia haveany relevance for today?
A: As much as it ever did. This country still faces threats fromforeign enemies. Maybe not invasions on the ground from a foreign army, butterrorists, guerrillas, and criminal gangs, either foreign or domestic, are agrowing threat. Urban riots are always possible, and looters are a potentialthreat following natural or manmade disasters. The police can't be everywhere,and rising crime means that everyone must be prepared to act on his own or incooperation with other citizens to enforce the laws until the professionals canassume control of the situation.
Everyone must also be prepared to performemergency services until emergency professionals can take over, sometimes undercircumstances in which they must also be prepared to use armed force.

Q: Come on! I'm not trained or equipped to act as a policeman, a fireman,or a paramedic. How can I be expected to do that?
A: Because you are an American citizen, and it goes with being acitizen, whether you like it or not. What you need to do is get trained and getequipped.

Q: Come on! It takes those guys years to learn those skills. Wouldn't Ijust be doing more harm than good if I tried to get involved?
A: No one is expecting you to jump into a raging river to savesomeone from drowning if you don't know how to swim, but what you should do islearn swimming and lifesaving. Likewise, you can learn other skills that may beneeded, and keep some of the tools you might need. For a reasonable investmentof time and money, most citizens can prepare themselves to function effectivelyin most such situations, sometimes even better than the professionals. Forexample, statistics show that in shootouts against criminals, law enforcementprofessionals are five times more likely to hit innocent bystanders than armedcivilians are. Part of this may be due to the civilians being on the scenefirst, and therefore knowing who the bad guys are and are not, but it alsoindicates that civilians are more careful, and often more skilled. Manycivilians are also skilled in the unarmed martial arts, skills that many lawenforcement departments actually forbid their members from learning and using,fearing lawsuits.

Q: Are you really saying we should all carry guns all the time?
A: Most of the time, yes. It's not that difficult. After a while,you barely notice it.

Q: Wouldn't there be a lot more deaths and injuries from firearms ifeveryone carried them all the time?
A: Well, we don't say everyone should always carryone. Obviously, some people shouldn't. But they are exceptional. Most peoplewill carry them safely and responsibly, with a little training. Of course therewill be some additional incidents if most people carry most of the time.Professional police and military have accidents and incidents, but we don'tdisarm them, because on balance we are better off if they carry most of thetime. Same with most other civilians. On balance most of us will be better off if most people carry most of the time, after receiving training, and withregular practice. In a large population of people, there will always be acertain number of injuries resulting from the possession and use of anycommon implement. But firearms, with proper use, are remarkably safe. Statisticsshow that injuries are more likely to be caused by common appliances liketoasters and vacuum cleaners than by firearms.

Q: You are talking about handguns, but what about military-stylesemiautomatic rifles, such as those banned under the recent Crime Act? Are theyreally good for anything but killing people?
A: In a sense, all functional firearms are for causing potentially deadly injury to their targets, but their primary purpose is to provide acredible deterrent against criminal attack. In a tactical situation in whichboth parties are armed with semi-automatic or full-automatic weapons, suchweapons shift the balance in favor of the defender, and partially offset theadvantage of surprise enjoyed by the attacker. It is not practical to carry themeverywhere, but in many situations, like defense of a fixed position, such asone's home or workplace, they can provide the margin of survival.
It should also be pointed out that military- style rifles, whether semi- orfull-automatic, are the primary weapons for use in performing militia duties,and therefore bans against such weapons are in violation of the provisions ofthe U.S. Constitution, such as Art. I, Section 8, and the Second Amendment,which provide for the Militia and recognize the right to keep and bear arms. <> Q: What does the U.S. Constitution say about Militias?
A: Art. I, Section 8, provides that the U.S. Congress can adoptregulations for organizing and training of the Militia, but that the organizingand training of the Militia, and the appointment of its officers, shall be doneby the States. The Second Amendment mentions the Militia as an important reasonwhy the people have a right to keep and bear arms.

Q: So, what do federal laws say about how the states should organize andtrain their Militias?
A: Not much. They define who may be required to respond to acall-up of the Militia by the President. In 10 USC 311, what we might call theobligatory militia is defined as "all able- bodied males at least17 years of age and, except as provided in section 13 of title 32, under 45years of age who are, or have made a declaration of intention to become,citizens of the United States." But they don't say anything about how theStates should organize and train their Militias. The States are left to do so ontheir own.

Q: So, what do State constitutions and laws say about organizing andtraining their Militias?
A: Again, not much. They define what most of them call the reservemilitia, usually as "able- bodied males" of age ranges that varyfrom one state to the next, typically as 16 through 59. Some of them alsoprovide for a State Guard, which is a full- or part-time organization which iswhat the Framers of the Constitution called a select militia. Not thefull Militia.

Q: What about the National Guard? Aren't they the Militia?
A: A part of it, yes, as we all are. But although they are availableto the State for certain purposes, they are organized and funded under theconstitutional authority to raise armies, not the authority to call up theMilitia. As such, they are part of the national military, not what the Framersmeant by the term Militia.

Q: Wait a minute. You first defined the Militia as the entire population,except for a few officials. Now we have these laws that define it as "able-bodied males" within a certain age range. Which is right?
A: Although everyone is in principle subject to being called to Militia duty, it has long been felt that few situations are likely to arise in which absolutely everyone would need to be called up. Therefore, the law tries to identify a subset of the entire Militia that may be required to keep arms andto be kept in a state of readiness. In the event of an actual call-up, thesewould also be joined by volunteers who, while not falling within the definitionof who may be required to be thus prepared and to respond to a call-up, wouldrespond anyway and who would be an asset. We call the first group of those whomay be required to stay ready and to assemble the obligatory militia. Wecall the volunteers the voluntary militia. The combination of theobligatory militia and the voluntary militia is the ready militia. Thatis what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind when they used the termMilitia. They envisioned a militia system like that of Switzerland.

Q: Well, if neither federal or state laws call for the organizing andtraining of the ready militia, does that mean they are prohibited?
A: No. A few state laws prohibit armed groups, but the legislativehistory of such laws shows that they were directed at criminal gangs , not atthe organizing and training of the Militia by local leaders or officials. Anysuch laws would be unconstitutional if interpreted in that way.

Q: So, who has the authority to call up the Militia?
A: Anyone can call up the Militia. Anyone at all. Historically, thecall-ups have usually been issued by local officials, such as sheriffs ormayors, but in the absence of action by such officials, the people can assembleon their own initiative, called up by anyone who offers a credible reason toassemble.

Q: Wow! You mean I could call up the Militia in my area?
A: That's right. Indeed, if you are aware of some situation thatrequires the Militia to be called up, then you are obliged to issue a call-up ifyou can't get some official to do so.

Q: Wouldn't it cause some alarm to a lot of people if we did that?
A: It might. That is why it is a good idea not to wait until an emergency occurs before you do it. The Militia should be kept in a state ofreadiness between emergencies. That way people will not see the call-up assomething unusual and alarming.

Q: Aren't there laws against alarming people that could be used against anyunofficial assemblies like that?
A: Longstanding constitutional precedent is that one has to actuallydirect arms against an innocent person and specifically threaten him for it toqualify as "alarming the public". And the person has to be innocent.If one has reasonable grounds to believe that he has or is about to commit acrime, then an armed threat may be appropriate.

Q: Wouldn't such armed assemblies of the Militia, or at least such part ofit as responds to the call-up, be vigilantes if they tried to do that?
A: No, vigilantism is the improper assumption of the role of judge,jury, and executioner, not the role of investigator or apprehender.

Q: What about the rights of the accused? Where do they come in here?
A: The Militia is obliged to treat the accused the same way thepolice are expected to treat them. That means informing them they have a rightto remain silent and to be represented by an attorney. They must use no moreforce than is necessary to prevent them from either escaping or committing acrime.

Q: All this is fine in theory, but when was the last time the Militia wasactually called up officially?
A: The President last called up the Militia on the West Coast in1942.

Q: What about unofficially?
A: Depends on what you would consider a call- up, but a notableexample occurred in Athens, Tennessee, in 1946, when a group of returningveterans discovered that the sheriff was stealing the local election. Theyissued a call-up, and laid siege to the court house. Despite a great deal ofgunfire on both sides, no one was killed. The sheriff surrendered, and theMilitia provided for an honest count of the votes. Dealing with vote fraud is aproper Militia role.

Q: Was that really necessary? Couldn't they or others in a similarsituation use peaceful, legal methods to enforce voting laws?
A: Not necessarily. There may be no one to enforce the law exceptthe Militia. The crime may be a conspiracy of local, state, and federalofficials who can effectively block any official enforcement action. There isevidence that most computerized elections are subject to being rigged at anytime, and that they are rigged with some regularity, at the direction of partieson the national level that control official law enforcement agencies at alllevels. Of course, the rigging is very subtle. It can be done right under thenoses of pollwatchers. Investigating such rigging is a somewhat involvedoperation, but it can be done, and should be before resorting to Militia action.The same situation may occur with other kinds of official corruption or abuse.The Militia may be the only honest law enforcement activity remaining.

Q: Are you saying that the main purpose for reviving the Militia traditionis to fight official abuse and corruption? Have things really come to that?
A: Sadly, yes. Most people are blissfully unaware of how bad thingshave become, or prefer not to see it or think about it. But it is approachingthe point where more and more of them will be unable to sustain their state ofignorance or denial. It would be better to act now before things get much worse.The longer we wait, the more likely that there will be violent conflict, and wereally don't need another civil war.

Q: Can you provide evidence of any of this?
A: There is plenty of evidence. It is readily available for thosewho want to make a little effort to find it. The sponsors of this document candirect you to much of it. After you read some of it, and talk to governmentinsiders who are providing information to patriotic citizens about what is goingon, you will readily understand why it is now time to activate the Militiaacross the country.

Q: My god! This sounds like you are proposing to overthrow the government.What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?
A: There is reason to believe that the U.S. Constitution has alreadybeen effectively overthrown by a conspiracy centered in the intelligence andmilitary establishments, with ties to the financial, industrial, media, andcriminal establishments. We seek to restore constitutional governance, hopefullyby balancing the power of this cabal with armed militia units in every state andlinked together across the country. That, and exposing their operations topublic view, will hopefully bring reform without the need to resort to violence,just as it happened in the former Soviet Union.

Q: The Constitution already overthrown? C'mon. Who's going to believe that?Maybe there is more and more corruption and abuse, but everything seems normal,for the most part.
A: Yes, the conspiracy is secret and subtle. It tries to avoidabusing too many people or people who are too prominent, but just try to exposeit or raise these issues, and you will soon discover that you live in a policestate and not in a constitutional republic.

Q: Maybe it is better to just not try to expose it or raise these issues,but keep a low profile and hope this conspiracy will overlook me?
A: Well, leaving aside the fact that to do so is to betray whatgenerations of Americans have fought and died for, and that such a position isdishonorable and cowardly, evidence indicates that whoever you are, a lowprofile won't help you. Sooner or later, you will have to face it. Better nowthan later. Now we can prevail. Later it may be too late.

Q: Look, it's not just me. I have a family to think about. Maybe I shouldjust join this conspiracy you talk about?
A: Join a conspiracy that depends on secrecy to survive? You don'tjoin them. They recruit you. If they don't, there's no way in. And no protectionfor you even if you do join them. They are not noted for protecting their ownpeople. Deals with them are Faustian bargains, long on promises and short ondelivery. That is one reason we are getting more and more defectors, despite thepersonal dangers. You have to ask what kind of country and world you want yourchildren and grandchildren to live in.

Q: It all seems so incredible. What could these people want that wouldcause them to overthrow the Constitution? What more could they get that theydon't already have?
A: They may be driven by fears of losing what they have, or they mayforesee some crisis they feel will require them to have more power than theyalready have. What did the Nazis want? Or the Italian fascists? Or the Japanesein WWII? Or Stalin? To us these fascists, for that is what they are,collectively, seem irrational. But they were not strong on reason or wisdom. Theallies may have won WWII and the Cold War, but fascism is alive and well andrunning Western countries, including our own.

[] Morgan Norval, ed., The Militia in 20th Century America: A Symposium,1985, available from Gun Owners Foundation, 5881 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA22041.
[] Stephen P. Halbrook, That Every Man Be Armed, 1984, availablefrom the Independent Institute, 134 98th Ave, Oakland, CA 94603.
[] Rodney Stich, Defrauding America, 1994, available from DiabloWestern Press, Inc., PO Box 5, Alamo, CA 94507, 800-247-7389, $27.25 Ppd.
[] James M. & Kenneth F. Collier, Votescam: The Stealing of America,1992, available from Victoria House Press, 67 Wall St #2411, New York, NY 10005,$10.00 Ppd.

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