Thursday, April 19, 2007

Well Regulated Militia

Randy Barnett, posting at Volokh Conspiracy, excerpts an article he wrote for National Review Online in 2001. From the post:
Section 311 of US Code Title 10, entitled, "Militia: composition and classes" in its entirety (with emphases added) defines the militia as follows:
(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.
What interests me is the meaning of militia. Only recently have I seen Barnett and others define it that way, even though (as the above code demonstrates) the definition is not new. This is not to say of course that militia must be defined that way; that's just the way it currently stands on the books.

Barnett observes that Congress has the Constitutional power (under Article 1 and the 2nd Amendment) to provide additional regulation for the non-National Guard component of the militia. He further points out that such regulation doesn't have to include a draft or even compulsory training. It could be purely volunteer. So he suggests the best way to prepare for the next violent episode (terrorist attack, mad killer, etc.) is to provide Federal-funded self-defense training. He goes on to propose programs for small arms handling and markmanship. And while he doesn't mention it in this post, I believe Barnett would also propose instituting conceal carry laws beyond the current 38 states that have them.

(BTW this dovetails fairly nicely with Glenn Reynolds' consideration of mandatory gun ownership).

In general the Federal-funded self-defense training sounds interesting. I agree having a better-prepared populace is a good idea. But I see a few problems...
  1. There's nothing stopping anyone in this country from acquiring self-defense training, small arms or otherwise. And we don't need more entitlement programs. (True there are 12 states and at least one district that prohibit carrying small arms. But that's a separate issue IMO. And besides it's not the only form of self-defense.)
  2. The idea has a whiff of demagoguery about it. Many will look at this idea and immediately cry "Fascist!", but that's overreaction. Even so, I wouldn't put it past certain Presidential advisors to use such a program to whip up a little alarmism amongst the red-meat crowd. BTW it wouldn't even have to be a Presidential advisor. It could just as easily be some fanatic in a state or municipal government.
  3. How would you define "self-defense"? Would you need Federal mandated guidelines? Minimum standards? No Militiaman Left Behind?