[Discussion] Shooting in VA at Congressional baseball practice

I'm sorry for misreading you, Yonder. My comment on the militia system failing was based on the *original* militia system, which I hope you'll agree had become useless by 1812, but lingered on in various ways until it literally threatened to bankrupt the country by the end of the 19th century. It then had to be completely changed (that's the Act of 1903) and turned into something new that would not have everyone being paid sinecures for non-functional and even non-existent militia roles.

The original militia system failed, but the name lingered, and the Acts were superceded but not gotten rid of in order to get the financial fixes through Congress without having the support needed to change the Constitution, which kind of requires *something* called a militia. It also recreated the militias, but as *Federal* assets stationed in States, rather than something each state paid for and maintained all on its own. And that's left us with a modern, to my view revisionist, understanding of the Second Amendment based on its original functionality (ie, to support hunting and militia service), but without the militia functionality in place. Many people justify gun ownership by referring to a militia system and its functions that no longer exist today. (Instead, it's something functionally different, with no need for town armories, mandatory conscription and most of the other features of the first few militia acts.)

Make sense now? I say the original militia system failed, because it did, and it was replaced, but by something almost entirely alien to what the Founders understood militias to be.

Thirteenth wrote:

How do you integrate that argument into your interpretation of the second amendment, then? Do you think that a well-regulated militia, by your definition, is still necessary to the security of the free state? Who are the "people" referenced in the text, if not lay citizens using firearms for their own recreational purposes?

Extended answers to those questions may need to move to a new thread, but in the mean time, I personally don't think that well-regulated militias are necessary to the security of a free state. To separate that security into two categories: foreign threat and domestic threat.


I think that the last 240 years, and especially the last 60, have shown that cohesive Federal forces are completely superior to a more mish-mash approach to fighting foreign threats. While some of the core things that have changed--for example transitioning from "every man" numbers to professional volunteers could be done at a militia level (and has been in the National Guard)--others don't scale as well. First of all a big part of the problem solved in later militia acts, including in the 1903 one, was that military equipment was ALREADY getting super specialized and very expensive. Because of this we had to transition to Federal Funding of the militias. It's gotten worse since then. The California National Guard could definitely buy it's own F-16s if it had to, the Alabama National Guard would be fielding Sopwith Camels.

In addition to that our battlefields are a lot larger. Even a Blitzkrieg like the Hitler performed in Poland would cross State lines and completely throw a militia level force into disarray. With modern technology in an environment where many of the combatants travel hundreds of miles at nearly the speed of sound just to get into the fight... no system of independent State Militias could handle that, you would have to Federalize all of the State Militias into a Federal force for any nontrivial threat (which was specifically something rectified in a Militia Act because that was an issue during the War of 1812). Not only that, but since WW2 a heck of a lot of our fighting hasn't even been "US Armed Forces" it has been "NATO Joint Operations" we're already going into a HIGHER level of military organization than even a National army, and with that context the idea of State Militias being essential to foreign defenses seems almost laughable.

Domestic Threats:
This is almost certainly what the Founding Fathers were really talking about, that's why they specified that the militia was necessary for a "free" State, not any State. Personally I am also unconvinced in this being necessary as well. I think that the last 140 years of US history (not to mention World history) has demonstrated that not only are militias not necessary to keep a free State free. The Bill of Rights was, written for the first Democratic nation in 2000 years, and it was a very vulnerable, fledgling State. It was completely rationale for them to be concerned with how fragile and short-lived the country could be. But now we have a LOT more data on the robustness of Democratic states and their failure modes.

Militias being called up represents the ACTUAL essential institutions that defend Democracy already having been dismantled or drastically weakened. The ACLU, for example, is a hundred times more important in defending freedom than the National Guard is, and the fact that the staunchest 2A supporters are also incredibly dismissive or actively hostile to the ACLU speaks volumes to either the actual desire of those people to support freedom, or at least their competency to recognize freedom and how to effectively defend it. The Press, an independent judiciary, strong voting rights that ensures people don't lose their ability to democratically effect their political system, THOSE are the mechanisms essential to the security of a free State, if you have them you don't need the Militias.

I do wonder how much the change from "armies are conscripted in large numbers" to "armies have very small numbers of volunteers" changes the calculus of a National army being a domestic threat. On one hand there is probably a certain amount of control that you lose over your Army as you transition away from "these people are here against their will and everyone needs to watch them like a hawk" that makes them harder to use against your own people. On the other hand having smaller numbers does more easily lend to statistical differences between your Nation and your Army that may make some forms of overthrow more palatable. However our Armed Forces are already quite different from the Nation as a whole, and I don't think we're anywhere near that concern. It's also worth wondering whether the huge numbers of private contractors we have doing jobs that used to be done by people in uniform changes anything.

I do definitely think that after two World Wars the Geneva conventions and other events has led to a global and especially Western military culture that is so much different on the concept of "illegal orders" now compared to 1791, that difference alone is a big barrier for a National army rising against the citizenry.

Setting aside my opinion that I don't think that the militias are essential for keeping a free State free, in order implement those safeguards along the lines of the second amendment, it would absolutely be using the National Guard as a basis, nothing else makes sense. "The People" in the second amendment was referring to the 18-45 year old white males in the Active Militia (technically the Militia Act of 1792 that formalized that came a year later, but whatever). However since then there have been two crucial changes: 1. All males (white was removed before 1903) 18-45 aren't in the active militia anymore, we are in the "Reserve Militia" which isn't at important except that we can be pulled into the "Active Militia". Even more crucially, people in the National Guards no longer use their own weaponry, whether they are using M-16s, M1A1 Battle Tanks, or F16s, their weapons are provided by the National Guard itself (federally funded). That means that restricting personal firearms (whether for people in the Reserve or Active Militias) does not in any way negatively impact the strength of the National Guard itself.

There is the issue that, while (many of) the National Guards are large, well equipped forces, there really isn't any likelihood that even the majority of them together would be able to stand up to the US Armed Forces. It's hard to see exactly how that would go, but I suspect that, like in Iraq, most of their bigger hardware would be cruise missiled to smithereens and then they would have to be more of an auxiliary insurgent force. To defend against that we would have rebalance that power. Right now apparently the National Guard has 348k people (most of which are only available part time, which may be an issue if this hypothetical conflict happens fast enough that they aren't activated), while the Armed Forces have almost 1 million (if you follow that 4th footnote you see that the 1.3 million number is including the National Guard), and those are full-time. We spend $603 billion a year on "Military Defense" and if you search for Guard and add up the line items only $27.3 billion (4.5%) of that is for National Guards.

So not only would you need to expand them, especially giving them a larger full-time presence (leaving the realm of "militia" but the important thing we're going for is "State control", not "part-time"). They would need different sorts of equipment too, if the Air Force has F-35s and F-22s then (many of) the Air National guards will need those too, F-15s and F-16s aren't going to cut it. You'd also need to re-examine the changes made to streamline the Militia and then National Guard after 1812 and WWI to integrate them into Federal control better, maybe some of that needs to be toned back. At the same time you'll have to keep in mind that such changes will be even more important, because the larger emphasis on the National Guard will necessarily mean that even more of the troops we send abroad will be National Guard, and they are necessarily going to be under the President in those foreign capacities, as well as frequently working with NATO/UN Task forces, or whomever.

Robear wrote:

Make sense now? I say the original militia system failed, because it did, and it was replaced, but by something almost entirely alien to what the Founders understood militias to be.

The only disagreement I have with that post is that I think that you are over-stating the difference between the modern National Guards and the original militias in function and intent. While the form did change substantially in 1903, more so than any of the other revisions, it was still an institution that saw lots of gradual changes and adjustments throughout history, just like the rest of our institutions. Our militias haven't failed and been replaced any more than the Vice Presidency, the Senate, or even our armed forces have had. They have had more structural changes than other parts of our government since 1792, but I think that any of them would be completely recognizable to any of them. (Actually I think you'd have a far easier time walking them through the rationale of the National Guard than how thoroughly we trashed their plans for the Senate). There isn't as thick of a dividing line between "Militia then" and "National Guard now" as you are stating.

As a review:

1. State National Guard units rarely "own" their heavy equipment. Aircraft, ground vehicles, and artillery often remain property of the federal government on long-term loan.

2. State National Guard units do not have the logisitical support required to sustain on-going (read any) combined arms combat. They do not have large stores of live munitions (as opposed to training rounds), fuel, oils / lubricants, and spare parts.

3. National Guard members swear a dual-oath to both the US Constitution and their state.

Had their been active combat between MNARNG and 1st Army I don't know who I would legally have had to fight for. I guess that means I would kind of have to choose which orders to follow.

In any case, this is all a really moot point and pretty off-topic.

Close enough, Yonder, thanks. I believe I got my point across, and I understand your position.