Thursday, December 19, 2019

Militias: What They Are and What They Aren't

With the increase in rhetoric coming from both sides in the gun control arena, I'm seeing a lot more references to “militias” in the last few weeks. Some pro-gun people are calling for the formation of more militia units to prepare for anticipated “storm-troopers and jack-booted thugs” that are waiting for the orders to “come take our guns,” while the anti-gun crowd is proactively calling any armed resistance “terrorism”. In my opinion, both sides need to step away from this “inciting violence” level of talk before someone gets stupid and people get hurt, arrested, or both. 

As I posted a few months ago, there is a possibility for a large man-made disaster if any group of politicians decide that they can order the disarming of Americans on any scale. Such an order is laughably ignorant for reasons that I may expand upon in a future article, but that won't stop the hard-core tyrants from trying.

Since words have meanings and clear communications require that definitions be known, I'll try to settle a few misconceptions about militias. I will not be using any Wiki pages, since they are too easily modified to suit political agendas.

What is a Militia?
The definitions vary slightly from source to source, but a militia is generally seen as a group of able-bodied and armed people (men, originally) that can be called up by the government to defend an area or region. They are not a full-time part of the uniformed military services, but are available to supplement or assist those uniformed services.

The militia is divided into three classes:
  1. The Organized Militia, commonly known as the National Guard, which is funded and controlled by the Federal government. The NG and Reserves have taken on a large part of our war fighting in the last few decades, and are becoming less of a militia and more a part-time military branch.
  2. The Unorganized Militia or Reserve Militia, which is composed of all the other able-bodied men and women. This is the “bring your own gear” militia which can be called up by the government to assist regular troops.
  3. State Defense Forces, which are set up under state laws and are generally under the control of state governors. Poorly funded and generally small units, these are the “core” or cadre that will lead the Unorganized Militia in state call-ups.

What isn't a Militia?
  • A group of drunken idiots wandering around the woods playing soldier is not a militia. LARP (Live-Acton Role-Playing) is not real life; air-soft or paintball training will teach you bad habits that will get you killed in real combat.
  • A guerrilla or rebel force. Unconventional forces are covered under other specific laws and are treated differently than uniformed troops fighting under a nation's flag. The rules of warfare tend to apply only to international conflicts; internal fighting has to get to a pretty bad stage before the concept of “war” supplants “crime”.
  • “Private Militias”, aka armed groups that do not answer to a government. State laws vary, but they are generally subject to the same laws as any other civilian, meaning they have to obey the laws or be charged as criminals.
  • Mutual aid and defense groups. This is a newer concept and is still being worked on. Most of the groups that have an internet presence are based around minority groups that will come to the aid of each other to prevent or stop aggression. LGBTQ groups seem to be the leaders in the formation of Mutual Aid and Defense groups.
  • Levee en masse: armed citizens spontaneously resisting an invasion before the uniformed troops can get there. They're still afforded combatant status in international disputes, but such actions against the standing government have mixed results and tend to be classified as criminal. I say “tend to be” because the winner gets to write the history, so take any reports with a grain of salt.

Who is in the Militia?
  • In the USA, we have laws that define militias and those eligible to serve in them. The US Code of Federal Regulations lays out the requirements in Chapter 10. The short answer is “all able-bodied men (and some women) between the ages of 17 and 45” with some exceptions. 
  • There is no formal need to “join” a militia; most of us are already included.

Are Militias Legal?
Since they are named in several of our founding documents and are covered by several sections of Federal and state regulations, they are most definitely legal as long as they meet the criteria.

To be blunt about the whole militia movement: I see it as a call to join a group, which is subject to government duty, in order to resist an action by that same government. Calling such resistance a militia is either a mistake in comprehension or a verbal fig-leaf to cover up intended illegal acts. If your goal is to defy government rule, you don't get to call yourself a militia; there are other terms such as “freedom fighter” or “resistance fighter” that more accurately define your actions.

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