What event might cause a "temporary" use of martial law by the US Federal Government

I am still new at posting to the forum so I apologise in advance if this is the wrong place for this post. No doubt the moderator will correct my error😂

While purusing a thread https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=818217&goto=nextnewest, it occurred to me that a situation like the Riechstag fire could happen in the USA.

My questions are:

What event or events might trigger the US Federal Government to declare martial law?

What might be the response by the various State governments?

What might be the response from the general public?

If the public response was widespread protests, what might the Feds do.in reaction to the uproar?

Let me clearly state that this is a completely hypothetical question and is not directed at the current Administration.

Ant thoughts on this?

Short of an invasion or a civil war I don’t see it happening. The individual states might do it in the case of natural disaster. The state’s ability to do this locally reduces the need to take action like that at the federal level. Perhaps a disaster on the level of the Yellowstone caldera erupting would lead to it but that would be because the affected states would no longer be viable.

Maybe a dirty bomb or widespread biological weapons attack.

Civil unrest to the level where there are militias killing each other in the streets?

The Supreme Court has essentially confined it to situations where civil order has completely broken down. As Wikipedia summarizes: The majority in Ex Parte Milligan stated that “martial rule can never exist when the courts are open” and confined martial law to areas of “military operations, where war really prevails,” and when it was a necessity to provide a substitute for a civil authority that had been overthrown.

I could see it in an area where a nuke went off from a terrorist group.

Hey I get to say it:
Hi, Ohio!

Welcome to SD.

It hasn’t been hypothetical in the US.

From Wiki Martial law in the US:
Martial law in the United States refers to several periods in United States history wherein a region or the United States as whole are placed under the control of a military body. On a federal level, only the president has the power to impose Martial Law. In each state the governor has the right to impose martial law within the borders of the state. In the United States, martial law has been used in a limited number of circumstances, such as directly after a foreign attack, such as Hawaii after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor or New Orleans during the Battle of New Orleans; after major disasters, such as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 or the San Francisco earthquake of 1906; renegade local leaders seeking to avoid arrest, such as Nauvoo, Illinois during the Illinois Mormon War, or Utah during the Utah War; or in response to chaos associated with protests and mob action, such as the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike, or mob actions against the [1961] Freedom Riders.

I don’t know the difference between States’ actions, with the State National Guard (or is the National Guard a federally direct able thing, since they get sent to real wars overseas?), and OP is aware of this and specifically excludes them in his query.

That is, a state National Guard has been used many, many times (natural disasters, eg), and the above listed cases do in fact address OP.

:smack: ETA: What Tripolar said less than half-an hour after OP.\

Although my confusion on the Federal direct orders (ie, “go to Afghanistan”) vs. a Governor’s call-up of a State National Guard persists. No doubt we’ve had a thread or three on that, but can this be addressed, passim, in this thread?

[ * Proud of himself for that *passim * *]

Large scale natural disaster (supervolcano, meteor hit, massive earthquake)

Large scale riots

Large scale terrorist attack

Political coup attempt

Can people file lawsuits with the courts to get martial law overturned? Or are the courts neutered under martial law? Who ends martial law? Does the military end it, the civilian government, the courts?

I was actually thinking about a Federal action but was not aware of some of the situations on a state level mentioned upthread, thanks for the first of the three new things to learn today!

Individual states maintain National Guard units as part of their state militias.* As a state militia, National Guard units are under the command of the governor of the state. National Guard units are also simultaneously Reserve elements of the U.S. Army (Air National Guard units are Reserve elements of the U.S. Air Force). Under certain circumstances, the President may, by executive order, activate National Guard units as Army Reserve and National Guard (ARNG) units. This is often referred to as “Federalizing.” Once a NG unit has been “Federalized”, it is a unit of the U.S. Army, fully under the command of the President as commander-in-chief of all U.S. armed forces.

Under the legislation establishing the National Guard system, the state and Federal governments share the costs of equipping, training, and maintaining National Guard units while they are in reserve status. The nitty-gritty of the cost-sharing can get pretty convoluted, but basically, when a state governor calls up a National Guard unit, it is fully under his or her command, and that state bears the full cost of the unit’s operations during the state activation. When the President federalizes a unit, it is fully under his command, and the Federal government bears the full cost of the unit’s operations for the duration of the Federal activation.

*I believe Texas actually maintains a completely separate state militia, and AFAIK, is the only state to do so. In all other states, their National Guard contingents are the entirety of their state militias.

21 states maintain official militia separate from the National Guard system. In New York we even have our own Navy!

Here’s the list.

Ignorance fought! Thanks.

I have absolutely nothing of any substance to add (as usual) except to say that this was a great question and a really informative thread. Thanks!

Yes, if the Capitol Building were to burn down in the middle of the night when nobody was there I’m sure the entire United States would be plunged into immediate martial law.

If hypothetically all the key people in the federal government were blown up, for example when they were assembled to hear a state of the union address, except for one person that no one liked, who was told to go buy the pizzas, would that trigger martial law?

Yes, government would stop, but there is a chain of succession that perates in the face of a coup, and there is not inherently social collapse.

I ask because I have an idea for a TV show.

I hear Kiefer Sutherland might be available to play the lead part.

Martial law isn’t really a concept in the U.S., whatever some may think. Milligan is an acknowledgement of extreme circumstances, not an affirmation of a system wherein the military can take over civilian government.

About the only thing that comes to mind that doesn’t require a hostile actor would be a massive failure of the power grid that went on for more than a week or so.

Weak links in US power grid vulnerable in event of catastrophe

So while it’s extremely unlikely, I think it’s actually more likely than any of the other scenarios listed here. It would only take one perfect storm of events.

Thanks for this list … from Wikipedia’s article on “Maryland Defense Force”: “However, as a state defense force, the MDDF is solely under control of the State of Maryland and cannot be federalized or deployed outside the borders of Maryland.”

So in Maryland, the State Militia is separate and distinct from the National Guard …