Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The insecurity of an unfree state

Jerry Stratton, March 9, 2014

In an article at USA Today, Glenn Reynolds takes a closer look at the prefatory clause of our constitution’s second amendment:

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

If a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, then where is ours? Because if a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, it follows that a state lacking such a militia is either insecure, or unfree, or possibly both.

The headline is his conclusion: No militia means more intrusive law enforcement.

As I wrote back in 1999 in Necessary to the Security of a Free State,

Today, our criminal justice system is designed around the presumption of innocence, that it is better to free the guilty often, than to arrest and jail the innocent. We can do this because individuals are assumed to be responsible for defending themselves against the guilty who go free. Take away individual responsibility for self-defense, and our criminal justice system will change: we will decide that it is better to jail the innocent than to let a single criminal go free.

Any armed force can defend the security of a police state. The Second amendment’s desire for a free state can only succeed if citizens are allowed to take responsibility for their own defense. The presumption of innocence and all of our other cherished freedoms cannot survive otherwise.

Reynolds adds that the militia, when used as a police force, was kind of a jury with guns: the government could call out the militia to track down lawbreakers, but if everyone thought the government was over-reaching, they stood as a check between the government and the oppressed. Even if they didn’t refuse to show up they would be likely to drag their feet, go home early, etc.

This even covered going to war. Reynolds gives the example of the 1912 invasion of Mexico, in which the militias refused, “noting that the Constitution allowed them to be called out only to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or enforce the law—not to invade other countries.”

It’s like the old joke about requiring bake sales to fund the military, but for real.

In response to Necessary to the Security of a Free State: We cannot have a free state when citizens are not encouraged to be responsible for their own defense.