Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

What is today’s “well-regulated militia?”

Written By: Bob - Aug• 05•12
Oleg Volk photo

What constitutes a “well-regulated” militia by today’s standards? Photo courtesy of Oleg Volk.

It seems that when some modern Americans look to the documents that form the framework for this long-standing republic, they assume that these documents are static, stagnant, and in some ways, repugnant.

Nothing could have been clearer than the recent declaration by many of the mayors and councilmen of this nation’s largest cities, who stated angrily that a certain corporation could not do business in the their cities because one of the company’s corporate officers had the audacity to state his adherence to traditional family values. Most of these same petty tyrants would also like to see the Second Amendment stripped away, along with the First.

There are even more state and federal officials, both elected and appointed, that hold the view that rights are something to be doled out in measured quantities to those constituencies who have put them in power, and heavily restricted to all others. In a perfect world the individuals that ascribe to these views and the political parties they represent could be simply voted out of office. Unfortunately, the infectious desire for control long ago infected both major political parties in this nation, and they are far more likely to work together as like-minded elitists to preserve the monopoly of power they collectively share, than restore power to the citizenry.

From my personal perspective, it appears that the Democratic Party is the more corrupt of the two, having balkanized cultures and built a power base built upon grievances that has only grown more polarized and vehement in recent years as they’ve adopted a smorgasbord of positions accurately reflecting views of socialist, Marxist, and communist thought that are fundamentally incompatible with personal liberty. The mainline Republican Party is almost as corrupt, being far more interested in serving the needs of deep-pocketed corporate interests (especially in certain business sectors) instead of the small business owner that is the core of American commerce, ingenuity, and job creation. Only the Tea Party faction within the GOP seems aligned with first principles.

Earlier this week I spoke briefly about the system of government our nation’s brave Founding Fathers gave us. Unlike peoples in other lands, we have the right to use the soapbox (free speech) and the ballot box (voting) to voice our displeasure and discontent, before having to resort to the cartridge box (insurrection or revolution). It is this system that has made our nation so robust, when every other sizable nation on this earth have gone through multiple governments and often multiple bloody revolutions and pogroms to effect change on more fragile frameworks.

For more than 200 years, the tension against tyranny provided by the First and Second Amendments have kept Leviathan from biting off large chunks of our freedom. Instead, the desire for power and control inherent to governments have been forced to nibble away at the edges of our liberty. Given enough time–and more than two centuries is quite enough time–even such small-scale usurpations act to weather away the Republic we were meant to have, as water wears away mountains.

Now, more than any other time since our nation’s Civil War, we face a nation divided against itself. It is not a division based upon regional or religious beliefs, ethnicity, or even class. It is a division based upon differing ideas of the foundational role of government in our society.

There are those that believe that the purpose of government in our society is to enforce (their) orthodoxies. Many of these same individuals and groups are those that feel the role of the government is to distribute the fruits of success throughout society, including to those who refuse to contribute to that success. There seem to be only one commonly held theme among those who adhere to this loose confederacy of beliefs.

The role of government is to impose.

Look at the various caucuses in Congress, unions both public and private, and the “social justice” movements as examples of these poisonous beliefs. Those who espouse this mindset come from various economic strata and a wide variety of cultures, and share a common belief that all people should have a share of private sector success provided to them by the government. They also share a common, often maddening belief that those who do not share this view should be shunned, or worse, silenced. They hold that a very powerful central government is necessary to enforce their will, through regulation as a necessity and force (or threat of force) as required. This is the sort of government that previous generations of Americans took up arms against, both on this continent, and overseas.

Those of us offended by the tyranny of government and the uniformity of thought have another view of government.

The role of government is to ensure.

No society is free where dissenting thought is crushed or drowned out. When the government plays favorites and corrupts the market, there is not free commerce, and no personal freedom. When the government uses it’s power to enforce only the laws it desires, and ignores or unevenly enforces laws based upon whim, there is tyranny.

We live in a tyrannical time. Our government has grown too large, and too corrupt.

Ideally, we will be able to use the soapbox and the ballot box to return this Republic to it’s correct path, but the founders have warned us to be prepared for the tyranny of government that eventually attempts to enslave all free peoples. It is against this vicious cycle of dependence and acquisition of power that a free Republic must stand, and the core of that resistance is the “well-regulated militia.”

Oleg Volk photo

A “well-regulated” militia is one that can ensure liberty by competence of arms and adherence to foundational principles. Photo courtesy of Oleg Volk,

Modern man does not use the term “well-regulated” in the way that his nation’s founders did, a way that was commonly understood throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

The phrase “well-regulated” was in common use long before 1789, and remained so for a century thereafter. It referred to the property of something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected. Establishing government oversight of the people’s arms was not only not the intent in using the phrase in the 2nd amendment, it was precisely to render the government powerless to do so that the founders wrote it.

A well-regulated militia is one that functions as expected, as a reserve martial force to be called upon in times of trouble. The explicit “trouble” that was fresh in the minds of the Founders when they composed our Constitution and Bill of Rights was the corrupting force of tyrannical government, having just overthrown the armed forces of the British tyrant King George III and his military government in America.

In our modern context, what is a “well regulated militia?”

I submit that it is the totality of the people, armed with knowledge of this nation’s history and the role of the militia in securing our freedom. It is the bodies of Americans, keep in “fighting trim” as age and ailments allow, and souls that are not timid.

It is a citizenry proficient in the use of small arms suitable for military service, educated with a basic academic knowledge of small-unit tactics and military strategy, and dedicated to the ownership and upkeep of arms, ammunition and paraphernalia suitable of be pressed into militia service.

We are meant to be a nation of free men.

To keep that heritage, we must be a nation of riflemen.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. LC Scotty says:

    Great piece. Impose vs ensure seems to tie in nicely with Sowell’s competing visions that Kevin Baker frequently cites.

    On an unrelated note: You mentioned Abe Lincoln Zombie hunter being on netflix via twitter. I looked and found an unrelated Abe Lincoln zombie flick-are you sure it’s the one you thought it was?

  2. styrgwillidar says:

    Every american should have to read the rulings and briefs in Heller and McDonald. They echo much of what you’ve stated.

    But another reason we lose freedom is simply the natural trend of bureaucracies to make more rules. Both politicians and bureaucrats who rise to the highest levels of their agencies are motivated people. They’re aren’t good monitors– they are doers!! (Peter Principle) They want to be seen as taking action, producing. The only thing they can ‘produce’ are new laws or regulations. And with very rare exceptions, laws and regulations limit freedoms, they don’t expand them. So, over time more and more rules are passed, not necessarily because we need them, but simply so the folks in those positions can feel like they’re “doing something”. Anyone who has worked in a large corporation or government agency will be familiar with this. Lots of offices/departments passing more rules to the point you get stuff done by deliberately ignoring them, or finding out you violated idiotic rules you never knew existed. It’s the only way to get things done.

    • Orion says:

      Wouldn’t it be nice to have some folks running for office who pledge to DO SOMETHING – GET RID OF EXISTING LAWS as fast as possible. And to put a mandatory 10 year sunset clause in every new law passed. And get rid of as many existing Federal agencies as possible.

      I wonder if they could even get elected. Everyone has their sacred cow they want protected, even if it costs freedom.


  3. Orion says:

    I think this next ‘election’ will make it obvious that the first two boxes have failed.


  4. Jim says:

    “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”
    — George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788

    I’d say that the founders agreed with you. As much as they agreed on most things, anyway… Nicely written.

  5. Junk Science Skeptic says:

    Even without studying historical English grammar, I always had a sense that “well-regulated” didn’t mean what many today think it means. Thanks for providing the clarification.

    Now could we get that paragraph on to a few thousand billboards nationwide?

  6. Andrew B says:

    I always find it instructive to point people to US Code for the definition of the militia. Look under “unorganized militia” and find that every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 45 is a militiaman. Show that to your liberal friends and ask them if they are ready for militia duty. Then stand back as their heads explode.

  7. Green Eagle says:

    Once again, Mr. Owens, you deliberately lie about the second amendment, and utterly misrepresent its intent.

    I quote from Federalist Paper #29, in which Alexander Hamilton sets forth the arguments for the second amendment:

    “THE power of regulating the militia, and of commanding its services in times of insurrection and invasion are natural incidents to the duties of superintending the common defense, and of watching over the internal peace of the Confederacy…

    This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union “to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States…”

    The militias referred to are not intended as a protection against some delusion of an out of control Federal government, but rather against “invasion and insurrection;” what is more, Hamilton states explicitly that it is the Federal government itself that is to regulate the militias.

    You are doing nothing but pandering to your paranoid fellow gun nuts, and in the process seeing to it that more and more incidents like the one of a couple of days ago keep happening. You should be deeply ashamed of yourself.