Can A Rebirth Of The Militia System Head Off The Threat Of Government Violence?

Le’ts attempt to synergize a few things.

Glenn Reynolds has a very interesting op-ed in USA Today asserting that many of the problems we face with government today are the direct result of letting the militia system that our Founders revered fall by the wayside. In so doing, we surrendered our power as citizens to the corrupting power of government:

If a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, then where is ours? Because if a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, it follows that a state lacking such a militia is either insecure, or unfree, or possibly both.

In the time of the Framers, the militia was an armed body consisting of essentially the entire military-age male citizenry. Professional police not having been invented, the militia was the primary tool for enforcing the law in circumstances that went beyond the reach of the town constable, and it was also the primary source of defense against invasions and insurrection.

Calling out the militia thus meant calling out ordinary citizens, trained in military tactics (that’s the “well-regulated” part), bearing their own arms. The Framers — who had a deep and abiding fear of professional standing armies because of abuses by the British Crown — thought this safer. A professional standing army could turn on the people, placing its loyalty with its paymasters rather than with those it was supposed to protect. The militia, on the other hand, couldn’t betray the people because it was the people.

Even short of revolutions and coups, the militia had a different character in ordinary law enforcement than professionals possess. If called upon to enforce an unpopular law, or to enforce the law in an oppressive or unpopular way, the militia could drag its feet and fail to perform.

Professor Reynolds, it seems to me, is echoing Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, son of one of the Sons of Liberty involved in the Boston Tea Party, who warned of what may occur when the citizenry stopped taking their obligation to participate in the militia seriously.

The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them. And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights.

As a culture, we’ve shirked this civic duty, particularly in those parts of the nation where the Second Amendment in specific and the Constitution in general are under open assault by local, state, and federal governments.

Hold that thought, as we shift over to Rachel Alexander’s Molon Labe: Connecticut’s Terrifying Start Of Gun Confiscation.

Until now, gun control laws hadn’t mandated the confiscation of weapons; generally, banned guns were grandfathered in under previous laws so their current owners could continue to legally own them. The Connecticut law changes all that. Passed last year in response to the Sandy Hook shooting, SB 1160 bans so-called “assault weapons” – certain rifles, more recently known as AR-15s, that have been singled out based on purely cosmetic criteria – and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The firearms have been banned based on how “scary” they look, not their actual usage in crimes. According to a study from the BATF that came out a few years ago, none of the top 10 guns used in crimes in the U.S. were so-called assault weapons; they were all pistols or revolvers. In fact, the #5 gun used in crimes was a shotgun, which Vice President Joe Biden advised Americans last year to use for self-defense.

The only way to legally retain one of these newly banned firearms or magazines in Connecticut now is to register it – but most gun owners do not want their name on a government list. They are well aware that a list of gun owners can someday be used by the government for confiscation. If gun owners didn’t register their firearms or magazines prior to the December 31, 2013 deadline mandated by the legislation, their firearms will be subject to confiscation and the owners considered guilty of a felony.

So far, it appears that the vast majority of gun owners affected by the legislation did not register their guns prior to the December 31 deadline, making between 50,000 and 350,000 gun owners felons. This is frightening, considering the law doesn’t just make the violation a misdemeanor, it makes it a felony, which could result in a prison sentence. Fewer than 50,000 gun owners registered their firearms by the deadline to comply with the law.

Gun owners who sent in their applications for registration after the deadline have reported already receiving letters by the government instructing them to get rid of their guns. The Hartford Courant notes that the government has records of gun owners who went through background checks in order to purchase AR-15s. The government could potentially go after any of those gun owners who failed to register their guns.

There is shock that gun owners are showing defiance. “I honestly thought from my own standpoint that the vast majority would register,” said Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, the ranking GOP senator on the legislature’s public safety committee. “If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don’t follow them, then you have a real problem.”

If we are to head off conflict in Connecticut and elsewhere, government must once again be brought to heel. The government must be reminded that it serves the people; the people do not exist to serve the government. Despite what a certain State Police spokesman might think, we are the masters.

To keep corrupt governments from (further) infringing upon the rights of the people, perhaps it is incumbent up Americans to once again take up this forgotten civic duty. It is time to begin reforming community militias and train so that they are a “well regulated” (smoothly functioning) deterrent to “enemies, foreign and domestic”  as the Founders intended, and “domestic usurpations of power by rulers” as Justice Story noted.