Guns and Militia

I had always viewed the Constitutional language about militias to be based on a fear that, in fact, federalism would overtake the individual states.  And I had always wondered why then don’t the modern day militia supporters act to “de-federalize” the state militias.  After all, the state militias have really ceased being state run entities decades ago.  My own daughter was a member of the West Virginia National Guard, an organization whose duty is to protect the citizens of West Virginia, and she found herself in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 fighting a foreign war.  Certainly, this was not the first time that the state militias were conscripted by the federal government. President Eisenhower famously took command of the Arkansas National Guard to enforce federal racial integration law.  But it should also be noted that the Arkansas National Guard served General Eisenhower in Europe during WWII, and in every foreign war since then.  Despite that, I haven’t seen any national movement to strip the federal government of its right to command the state militias.  Instead what we see are armed individual citizens who have decided that it’s their duty to protect the state from takeover.  (the NRA promotes that idea simply because it represents gun manufacturers, not the citizens of America, and it makes money from gun sales)

Last week our local police chief was interviewed on talk radio.  We recently had a “domestic” incident and inside the home police found three assault rifles, as well as other weapons.  Fortunately no one was injured.  This, in a quiet suburban neighborhood.  In the radio interview the Chief said that he didn’t understand why people needed to have assault weapons in their homes.  As would be expected, his comments sparked a lot of pushback from gun owners.  One of our residents cornered me just before Council meeting and said he disagreed with Chief Harbin about assault weapons.  He repeated to me the same statement that we’ve heard many times, “an armed citizenry is protection against a tyrannical federal government.”  And as always, I respond to that statement the same way, “so who are you planning to shoot with your assault rifle”?  To put down an insurrection, the POTUS would federalize the National Guard.  “Would you shoot our own local National Guard soldiers (like my daughter)?”  And what if our governor (instead of the POTUS) called up the National Guard to put down an insurrection?  Would it then be ok, because the federal government wasn’t involved”?  When faced with these questions, the gun owner doesn’t have an answer, because to him the tyrannical federal government is a mysterious, even invisible entity— a group of strangers, not his neighbors.  He hasn’t thought about who he would actually be shooting at.

Despite the gun owner’s delusional paranoia, I do understand a fear of big government.  And therefore, I felt that I understood an emotional need to have a local defense against “big brother”.  Well, my understanding was upended this week when I read the article in Truth-out by Thom Hartmann called The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery.  Any understanding that I had about why we have state militias was smashed when I learned that state militias in the South were used to track down renegade or insurgent slaves long before the Revolutionary War, and further, that the right of states to continue to have militias after the War was a compromise in order to get Virginia’s vote in support of the Constitution of the United States.  Hartmann”s article is a MUST read.

After reading Hartmann’s article, I thought back to a blog entry I made last April called “the 150 Years War” where I discussed the disparity between slave labor and organized labor.  At the time I had pondered, “are there any issues in America that AREN’T related to slavery?”  In the gun issue I thought I had found one.  Wrong.  Dig through any issue and eventually you will come back to the economics of slavery.

3 thoughts on “Guns and Militia

  1. This was a very good article, thank you. What you are saying makes great sense. I am a veteran of the NY Army National Guard where I served in a combat arms position (armor crewman). My loyalty has always been to the militia as lawfully constituted and I’ve never been a big fan of standing armies since my foreign policy views tend towards military non-interventionism. I believe in the idea of the citizen soldier. This is exactly why I joined the guard. It is true what you are saying though… despite the Militia Act of 1913 declaring that the guard is the successor to the old state militia system, it really is not if we find it acting as a reserve to the standing army and actively waging foreign wars. I agree that every effort should be made to change the law, but I don’t believe that it is possible. I don’t think anything like the old militia system is possible any longer.

    This raises an interesting question and/or observation. The old militia system had a fourfold role: law enforcement, defense against invasion, defense against insurrection, and a check against federal tyranny. Three of those four are handled by other organizations while conveniently the fourth is no longer represented. This is where the individual armed civilian comes in. The problem with that is there is no lawful and totally inclusive organization, but rather a mob of potentially lose cannons who have no unit discipline or command structure. It is ineffective and kind of stupid when you consider it. Any rebirth of the militia system would have to be from the bottom-up, yet lawfully constituted, open to all, and representative of the entire citizenry. Maybe that will arise if the times truly demand it. I believe in spontaneous order.

  2. Pingback: Militia in Oregon – News and Opinion from Social Democrats USA

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