How is a well regulated militia necessary to the security of a free state?

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that as an assumed axiom. But, if “militia” is defined as a non-professional or quasi-professional, part-time, volunteer military force (as distinct from a regular army’s reserve force), we can see many free states in the world that get along quite well without any state militia. (We also see many countries where there are militias independent of the state, and generally those cause nothing but trouble.) A country might need a Home Guard or something in wartime, composed of men too old or infirm to serve in the regular forces; but a militia in peacetime is not really necessary. Useful, certainly – the National Guards of the American states often perform useful functions in emergencies – but not “necessary to the security of a free State.” Between them, the regular Army and the state and local police forces have really got all necessary functions covered. So what’s the use of the Second Amendment in the terms stated?

When it was written, few countries had full-time professional armies (Don’t forget that Britian, in fighting the revolution, had to hire foreign soldiers as their regular corps wasn’t enough to squash the rebellion). Hence the need for a “well-regulated militia”. Given the document writers’ recent troubles, one can see why this issue was paramount in their minds.

But, yes, if you’re rich enough to pay for a full-time professional army, the need for a militia decreases quite a bit.

Add to the fact that there was strong opposition to a standing army just after the Revolution, especially by the anti-Federalists, who were the strongest supporters of a bill of rights. From a letter by “Brutus” (Robert Yates), January 24, 1788:

And as Hamilton puts it in the Federalist Papers 29 (which is about why the national government needs the power to regulate the militias):

Look at some of the other countries that might be regarded as “free states”: Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan. Do they have militias? If they don’t, then a militia is not necessary.

Do you mean now, or when the Constitution was written?

Militias were often deployed to repel Indian attacks, which could occur without warning and might require a quicker response than a national army at that time could have provided.

Later, in the Battle of New Orleans, state militias from Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana were deployed.

It’s not. We give up. You win.

Just telling you what you guys seem to want to hear.

Yeah, but really your side wins, anyway: it would be politically impossible for the foreseeable future to repeal the Second Amendment. Be happy with that, even it it is anachronistic.

You do know that Britain has the Territorial Army, don’t you?

I didn’t know that. However, it seems to be part of the British Army, even though it’s composed of part-time volunteers. It is really a militia, or is it a regular army reserve?

It’s a bit of both: mostly a regular army reserve - plenty of TA have been deployed to Afghanistan - but a large proportion of the members are not ex-military but civilians.

How is a militia well-regulated?

Plenty of fiber in the field rations.

Presumably by having officers and an overall organisation which commands and coordinates members of the militia, rather than a mob of individuals going off and fighting in whichever way they choose. Rather like the National Guard, and not like the militias that some on the extreme right like to set up.

According to Cecil, it could very well mean ‘subject to civilian control’

Isn’t there already a requirement that the Defense Secretary be a civilian?

Well, since the Defense Secretary title itself appears nowhere in the Constitution, I’m guessing that the requirement is statutory rather than constitutional. As such, it could conceivably be changed.

Corrections to any misapprehensions betrayed by the above will be gratefully received.

You’re right, all Cabinet posts and departments are statutory.

If you’re not going to have a standing force to defend against outside attacks (and the writers didn’t want one), you need a militia to do so. If you don’t have either, you obviously don’t have security and can’t keep your state free. But any military force obviously has to be under control of authority, i.e. “well-regulated”. Is that so hard?

Some of the writers of the Constitution didn’t want a standing army. Others did, which is why the Constitution includes provisions for maintaining a standing army.

Time for the Elbridge Gerry quote from that discussion: “A standing army is like an erect member: while it provides for domestic tranquility, it provides a temptation for foreign adventures.”

My take on this is based upon the interpretation of the meaning of the Second Amendment that I expounded upon in the thread Why I believe the Second Amendment protects a personal right to firearms**. **The argument I put forth was that under the letter of Article One Section Ten Clause Three, the states can be forbidden to possess “troops”, defined as any standing, professional armed force. But obviously some sort of armed force is necessary to maintain safety and order on the state and local level. If the Second Amendment has any meaning, it has to be that not withstanding the provisions of A1S10C3, the states have a right to have some sort of security force. So how do you have a body of armed persons without their being troops? By employing armed citizens on a temporary, non-professional basis.

So I think the intent of the Second Amendment might be paraphrased as “since the states are forbidden to possess their own state armies, and since they then need a well-regulated milita for peace and safety, the Federal government shall not undermine this by forbidding citizens to possess weapons”.

In addition, many argue that the phrase “well-regulated” meant something more like “trained and drilled so as to actually be able and ready to fight”. The Federalist #29 uses the phrase in that sense for example, in which Hamilton argues that it’s neither necessary nor desirable for the whole of the “militia” (in the sense of the mass of the populace) to be trained to that standard.

Finally, it is indisputable that there are many perfectly nice, peaceful, prosperous democracies in which security is provided entirely by the state, and whose citizens have little or no right to privately possess arms. This has turned out to be a rather unexpected surprise given the political theories of the Enlightenment. On the other hand there are plenty of military dictatorships where army death squads are free to massacre as many of the unarmed civilians as they deem troublemakers. What makes the difference I don’t know.