Sunday, February 25, 2007

2nd Amendment Education: We, The Militia

(Yes, this is the first Rule 308 post in about four months. Op-For’s been keeping me busy. So much to talk about, so little time.)

Today’s topic is the militia, specifically what it is and what it isn’t, and why it’s important. Since those of you who really understand it will say, “Yeah, tell me something I don’t know,” this is directed at those who simply don’t know the militia is, in order to educate them. As for those who have been told what it is and why it is that way but still insist on believing otherwise, well, read on and see if your mind opens up a bit.

The definition of the militia is at the heart of the debate on the meaning of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “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.”

Gun control advocates claim that it grants the States the right to establish and maintain military forces, today called the National Guard, and has nothing to do with individuals’ rights to keep and bear arms. Besides the obvious facts that only individuals, and not governments, possess rights; that no piece of paper grants a right but rather protects it; that the National Guard is a fairly recent invention that is armed, organized and ultimately directed by the Federal government as a reserve component (check out a Guardsman’s uniform—it says “US Army”); and finally that there is no way to say that this amendment strengthens the power of the state when the entire thrust of the Bill of Rights was meant to protect the people’s rights from the government.

Nope, it means nothing of the kind, as gun rights advocates, who are really civil rights advocates, will correctly point out. The militia is the vast majority of the citizens of this country, the law-abiding, engaged, able-bodied working men who stand ready to defend themselves and their communities, and who can be called into national service if the need arises. It's pretty much all of us. How do we know this? We ask the Founding Fathers. They reply through the very clear writings and commentary they left on he subject. (See here, and here to name only two sites.) Bottom line: the militia exists beyond the power of the government, it can be embodied by the government when necessary, but at other times it simply is. And it is up to the members of the militia to see to it that they are well-regulated, i.e. armed and trained and ready. The government just stands out of the way.

Still not convinced? Still believe that armed force is a state monopoly where citizens ought not tread? Where we should all leave it up the “professionals,” because of course they’re so much better trained than we are? Let me give you some food for thought, about another vital area of security and safety in America where the citizenry plays a vital role-- Jury duty.

Serving on a jury is akin to serving in the militia. It is a consequence and an obligation of citizenship. You might never be called upon to do it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never be called upon, and while you can with some difficulty get out of it, there are consequences to saying you won’t do it. The jury pool is made up of sound-minded able-bodied citizens, and it specifically excludes certain types of people, criminals for one. Others who would be excluded from jury duty include, interestingly, lawyers and police officers. Why? Because they’re too close to the system and they serve it in other ways, oft-times as agents paid and directed by the state. An independent, non-professional jury is a check on the judicial power of the state in just the same way as an independent non-professional armed citizenry is a check on the overall power of the state. Prospective jurors are only called into service—embodied, as it were—when needed, and then dismissed when their work is done. It’s all part of being an engaged citizen.

So there you have it. I hope you learned something today, and I hope you pass it on to others, especially those who just don’t get it. The right to keep and bear arms is a right whether you exercise it or not, and it’s a vital part of the safety and security of this country.