While the second amendment is seemingly small, only twenty seven words, those 27 words have kept this country free for 200 years. Those 27 words have inspired books, laws and much controversy. In my last posting I examined the a small part of the 2nd amendment. We discussed only the castle doctrine. Today I want to discuss another small part of the 2nd amendment, the militia.
What is the militia and when did the militia first appear? While the term militia dates back some 500 years or so the definition of militia has been around for a while. After reading my last entry you should be able to guess that I am going to be looking way back at history to give us an answer, in this case 3,000 years, Numbers 1:1 “And the LORD spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2 ‘Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, by their polls; 3 from twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel:” In short all able bodied males age 20 and above, this is the first available written record of a militia.
Over the years the definition of a militia has changed. Let’s go back to Alfred the Great England 872 all English citizens from the nobility to the peasants were obliged to privately purchase weapons and be available for military duty.
This stayed until about 1503 when Henry VII limited shooting, but not ownership, (a very interesting distinction) to those who owned land. In 1511 Henry VIII increased the property requirement and included the long bow. At this time the term Militia was being developed, generally being the entire people which then morphed into only the rich.
In Massachusetts, the first session of the legislature ordered that not only freemen, but also indentured servants own firearms and in 1644 it imposed a stern 6 shilling fine upon any citizen who was not armed.
British troops seized a militia arsenal in September, 1774, and incorrect rumors that colonists had been killed spread through Massachusetts, 60,000 citizens took up arms. (Don’t tread on me.) at this time the use of militia had the meaning of all able bodied men. (Sorry ladies – no militia)
In Massachusetts, Sam Adams unsuccessfully pushed for a ratification of the constitution, conditioned on adoption of a Bill of Rights, beginning with a guarantee (Debates) “That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms. . . .”
In the Militia Act of 1792, the second Congress defined “militia of the United States” to include almost every free adult male in the United States. These persons were obligated by law to possess a firearm and a minimum supply of ammunition and military equipment. I find it amazing that when the government leadership wanted to keep this country free they required arms; now that they want us in servitude the government leadership do not want us to have arms. Every single time the government has been allowed to take the right of the people to bear arms away; they have systematically murdered their own citizens; Hitler 12 million, Stalin 25 to 50 million total figure unknown, Mao 75 to 100 million total figure unknown.
The Militia Act of 1903–together with its 1908 amendment–was, in the words of a leading historian of the National Guard, (Donnelly) “the most important national legislation in militia history.” The act, also known as the Dick Act in honor of Dick, repealed the Militia Act of 1792 and divided the militia into two groups: the Reserve Militia, defined as all able-bodied men between 18 and 45, and the Organized Militia, defined as state units receiving federal support.
Arizona defines its militia as (Article 16 Section 1) “1. Composition of militia
The militia of the state of Arizona shall consist of all capable citizens of the state between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, and of those between said ages who shall have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, residing therein, ”
In our next discussion we will discuss court opinions and some local laws about the right to keep and bear arms. For more reading please visit my website, http://johnrosado.net. There is an organization that lobbies here in Arizona to keep our rights to defend ourselves intact called the Arizona Citizens Defense league. This is an all volunteer group that has been very successful in keeping your right to bear arms in Arizona from being taken from you. For more information about Arizona laws and the Arizona Citizen Defense league please visit AZCDL.org.
Debates and Proceeding at the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at
86-87 (Pierce & Hale, eds., Boston, 1850); 2 B. Schwartz, the Bill of Rights 675 (1971).
Donnelly, William M. The root reforms and the national guard http://www.history.army.mil/documents/1901/Root-NG.htm Retireved May 24, 2010
Arizona’s Constitution in its entirety (updtated 4/14/2009)
http://www.azleg.state.az.us/Constitution.asp Retrived 9/3/2011