“There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President
One of the arguments that the gun control crowd seems to be pounding into our heads lately is the idea that guns were designed for, and should be solely used by, the military and law enforcement. However, what they seem to forget, and hope that we do too, is what both the Constitution says as well as what our national history has to say about the right of the public to own and carry weapons. Does our current military set up even follow the Constitution? What does it mean to have a militia?
One of the pet peeves of the Founding Fathers was the idea of a standing army. They encountered what that was like with the British, finding the soldiers far more interested in the will of the government than the will of the people. However, at the same time they also recognized a need for some sort of military for self-defense, which is why Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says the following regarding what Congress was allowed do in that regard: “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy”. As you can see, the Founders made a clear distinction between a standing army and a full time Navy. And while the President may have been the Commander in Chief, Congress was to be in charge of providing for the common defense.
So what would a Constitutional military look like? For starters, we would have to end the Air Force, the Air Force Reserves and the Air National Guard. Any planes deemed necessary to national defense would then become naval aircraft. We would also have to end the Militia Act of 1903 and return control of the National Guard to the States, with each state deciding what to do with them: keep a full time paid force, return to a militia (private armed citizens to be called up when necessary) or a hybrid of the two.
Guarding the Coast would then become the Navy’s job, with the Coast Guard returning to being the Revenue Cutter service (tariff & import/export enforcement) it was originally designed to be. What we would be left with is the Navy, the Navy Reserves and the naval infantry, or what we call the Marines (the Army would be enfolded into the Marines). Any gaps found militarily during war could be filled immediately by Congress using their Constitutional authority under the same Article 1.8 by issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal. For those not familiar with this authority, Letters of Marque and Reprisal were given to private citizens in order to further the common defense and would usually carry the following elements: 1) Name a person and authorize him to pass beyond borders with forces under his command 2) Specify nationality of targets for action 3) Authorize seizure or destruction of assets or personnel of target nationality 4) Describe offense for which commission is issued as reprisal 5) Restrict time, manner, place, or amount of reprisal. During the Revolution, citizens who were given these letters were called privateers.
As you can see, not only in times of peace, but also in times of war, the Constitution still focused on keeping all power in the hands of the people. They alone would ultimately be in charge of their defense, not the Congress, not the President. Our Founders had a greater fear of government – even the one they designed- than they ever did of the people. They personally experienced how a standing army could be used to limit freedom in order to enforce the will of government, so they took great care to limit its use to just times of war. And if there ever came a time where the Navy was outstripped in providing for the national defense, allowances were made so Congress could call upon a well-armed populace – the people themselves- to stand in the gap, shoulder to shoulder, against a common enemy.
Which brings me to the question asked earlier: What does it mean to have a militia? How is the preservation of the individual right to bear arms necessary to maintain both a healthy military as we know it, but also a local militia as the Founders defined it? Next week I will explore those questions based on historical fact, rather than liberal hysterics. Returning to a constitutionally designed military would save us money, remove the temptation of foreign entanglements, and stop the alphabet soup of militarized bureaucracies (DHS, TSA, ATF, DEA, CIA, FBI, EPA, etc.) by returning all law enforcement powers to the people’s local representatives, such as county sheriffs, mayors and governors. In addition, a Constitutional military would ensure the careful maintenance of our liberty by keeping the core of its defense with the American people, who have proven to be its far more trustworthy guardian.