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Militias and Community

by Robert Teesdale

The word "militia" is a loaded one.

What image does it conjure up? The most immediate image is that of a band of citizens with weapons.

Unfortunately, in the United States it also conjures up images of fringe groups - discontented citizens training in the mountains, filing liens against public officials and refusing to pay their taxes.

Organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Militia Watch keep tabs on racist or bigoted organizations, and include "militias" in their estimate of threats to common decency and the rule of law.

This is unfortunate.

While there is no question that the term "militia" has been, in many cases, appropriated by extremist groups and individuals - such appropriation does not, in any fashion, invalidate United States law.

We are all members of the Militia.

Here's the relevant section of the U.S. code - Title 10, Section 311:

Sec. 311. Militia: composition and classes

(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.

In other words, you - as an able-bodied citizen of the United States - are a member of the unorganized militia.

What is the purpose of this?

The defense of community. The preservation of the rule of law when social services fail. The protection of the People from violence, tyranny, and other dangers in the face of either oppression or disaster. The keeping of the peace.

When a law enforcement officer requests that you come to his assistance, it is illegal to refuse in almost every jurisdiction of this nation. Properly so, for who would turn his back on a police officer struggling to arrest a criminal? Or fighting to save the life of an accident victim?

When you respond, you are acting as a militia member.

If there is an accident on the highway, with snarled traffic and wounded people - and you pull over to assist, to render aid and direct vehicles around the injured - you are doing that which common decency and a sense of community require.

You are acting as a militia member.

When you take a lost child by the hand and lead her to the information desk at the shopping mall; when you step from your storefront and tell a group of bullies to leave that poor kid alone; when you with your neighbors move a dead tree from the streets before your homes... are the militia.

It matters not whether the call is that of a kitten in a tree, or the defense of your community and family against the predations of an arbitrary and outrageous government.

It is the spirit that moves us to plow our neighbor's driveway. It is the spirit that causes you to watch out for your friend's children. It is the spirit that motivates you to care, and to act in defense of those precious things that bind us all together as Americans.

It is the love of your fellow man.

And that, my friends, is the most honorable motivation of all.


Printer Version

False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crime. Cesare Beccaria, quoted by Thomas Jefferson

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