What, exactly, is "an armed body of men"? (state constitutions).

Most (not all) states have right to bear arms clauses in the state constitutions.

Two states (Arizona and Washington) have identical wording in their state constitutions:

"The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men."

What, exactly, is “an armed body of men”? Has it been defined anywhere? It almost sounds like a factory wouldn’t be allowed to have armed guards on site. But those clauses are old (1889 and 1912). So what did that mean back then? What does it mean now?

My sense is it’s to prohibit private armies and non-state controlled militias (which most so-called militias are now, effectively: random groups of privately organized, armed thugs, sovereign citizens, and the like).

But, since this is GQ and not IMHO, I went ahead and found this as a cite from Georgetown Law (PDF warning):

Prohibiting Private Armies at Public Rallies: A Catalogue of Relevant State Constitutional and Statutory Provisions

For Washington, for instance, it cites a statute that seems to speak to, even if not invoking the exact same words, the question of what it’s Constitution means by “an armed body of men.”

This site quotes from Lenin:

I’d be really surprised if those two states were cribbing from Marxism, but the general thrust may pertain: no private, company prisons; no private, company armies; no private, company police forces nor private, company courts enforcing private, company law. Don’t try to cut in on the state’s powers, IOW. Also no vigilante posses nor lynch mobs, presumably.

It doesn’t forbid the factory from having anything. It just says that if you or your corporation want to retain an armed body of men, you have to look elsewhere for the law on that topic. It might be legal, it might not, but if it’s not, you can’t challenge that based on the state constitution’s protection of the right to bear arms.

This. I suspect the intention is to make it clear that the constitutional right to bear arms doesn’t limit the power of the state to limit, regulate, licence, etc private security firms that provide armed guards.

Agreed. :smack: I spent too much time trying to get the definition of the quoted noun phrase, and not enough parsing the entire clause. D’OH.