A Militia Is Not An Army

The Virginia Bill Of Rights made it clear that the founding fathers did not consider an army to be a militia. The militia consists of armed citizens, and standing armies should be avoided..

That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

Virginia Bill of Rights


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31 Responses to A Militia Is Not An Army

  1. NikFromNYC says:

    A bloated federal government saps the vital advantage of having states experiment with variations in types of regulation and taxation. Want to live in a gun-free zone? Move to Detroit!

  2. more soylent green! says:

    I don’t know about Virginia, but the US Bill of Rights is about individual rights. Every right listed in the Bill of Rights is an individual right. No powers are granted to the government through the Bill of Rights and that includes the Tenth Amendment.

    The state (that is, any government body) doesn’t have rights, individuals have rights. The state has powers granted to it by the people. As if the amendment’s language isn’t clear enough, It’s clear by reading the Federalist Papers and other documents that the Second Amendment is designed as another check and balance on the power of the state.

    Also, none of our rights are granted by the government. They are natural rights.

    • philjourdan says:

      The Constitution Bill of Rights was modeled on the Virginia Bill of Rights. It was Madison who insisted that a bill of rights be added to the Constitution before it was Ratified.

  3. DP says:

    Another interesting point is that “regulated” had a different meaning when the US Constitution was drafted. Back then it essential meant to make regular or common. When the federal gov. was directed to “regulate” something, it was meant to ease or facilitate it. In other words, not get in the way. It did not mean to control it. Now it effectively means the exact opposite.

  4. John Gardner says:

    I’m only an ancient (but well read) Aussie, but could the word ‘milita’ as used in the Virginia Bill of Rights (‘composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state’) possibly be the equivalent of the modern word ‘police force’? One might also ask whether the use of term ‘military’ in the same extract refers to the militia, the standing army, or both?

    • “a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people”

    • suyts says:

      John, you have to understand the context in which this was written.

      The Virginia Bill of Rights, is clearly making a distinction between a militia and a standing army. It can’t be the equivalent with a modern police force, because they weren’t talking about law enforcement. They were writing about the safe defence of a free state”

      Next, consider what had just happened. The various States had just raised militias and won independence from the British. Then, they took their guns and went home. This is exactly what the founding fathers of Virginia and the US were referencing when discussing a “militia”.

  5. John Gardner says:

    Thanks for the historical background, suyts. (Obviously I’m not too well read about these aspects of US history!) Sooo, this all happened before federation, i.e. before there was a federal government and Supreme Court that could decide that a national standing army was desirable/necessary (despite the warning in the Virginia Bill of Rights etc. against a standing army!), rather than the states raising ad-hoc militias to defend the country (‘defence of a free state’)? If so, can you tell me do (any) states still have the power to raise militias? If yes, why? If not, why does the Constitution imply that they can (thru the ‘right to bear arms’ clause)? Or am I wrong again?

    By the way, total gun deaths in Australia 2011 – about 230 (pop 24 million), total gun deaths in the US 2011 – around 26,000 (pop 311 million). We lucky Aussies enjoy a very peaceful life over here, without the need to own or carry guns for protection. (Maybe its because we all have so much space in our huge, sparsely populated country!) Feel free to come and visit anytime – no fear of being shot here!

    • Most of the US is extremely safe and has low crime rates. You are conflating black gangs in inner cities using illegal weapons, with the rest of America.

      Don’t walk through East LA or the bad parts of Chicago, or be so freaking arrogant. Either that or volunteer to take our problem demographics off our hands.

      I am so fed up with people trying to claim that the US is a dangerous place.

      • Andy DC says:

        Tourist Guide for People Visiting the US:

        85% of country (by area) that did not for Obama is pretty safe
        15% of country that voted for Obama is not so safe

      • John Gardner says:

        Sorry, Steve, that won’t wash – the same argument applies in Australia, there are some nasty places with very high crime rates vs the other 99.9% of places. Of course I choose to live in a safer area, but living in a nasty area and owning a gun sure wouldn’t make me feel as safe! BTW – I did not suggest that all of the US is equally dangerous – I’m just quoting the facts that per capita, the USA has 10 times the number of gun deaths than a superficially similar multi-ethnic first-world English-speaking country – Australia. If it helps make you feel better, I’ll add that the US statistics indicate that only about 40% of the US gun deaths are reported as homicides, whereas 60 % are reported as suicides. (The Aussie number I quoted was for all gun deaths). Actually, knowing that around 17,000 Americans commit suicide by gun every year, compared to around 10,000 gun homicides, makes me very sad, and really surprised that there isn’t more media coverage of suicide as an issue.
        PS I enjoy the AGW skeptical comments on your website, keep up the good work – I think us skeptics are winning.
        Please stay safe, and ‘enjoy the interglacial’!

      • Ivan says:

        Iā€™m just quoting the facts that per capita, the USA has 10 times the number of gun deaths than a superficially similar multi-ethnic first-world English-speaking country ā€“ Australia

        I’m glad that you used the word “superficially” in that comparison.

      • TonyO of Aust says:

        John Gardner: “We lucky Aussies enjoy a very peaceful life over here, without the need to own or carry guns for protection.”
        Mate – you live in a fool’s paradise – or a sheltered workshop / walled enclave.
        There are plenty of scumbags living in this country (Aust) who don’t mind the odd home invasion – they never would have prior to Howard disarming the general public.
        Are you one of those knuckleheads who referred to people who had & liked guns as “gun-nuts”??
        Unlike you, I am quite well aware of what is out there – and what can come calling – I would dearly love to have some weaponry at home – a shotgun would suffice.

      • One more remark to John — suicide in South Korea, Japan, and China are far higher than the US, and handgun ownership by non-uniformed citizens is virtually nonexistent. Guns have NOTHING to do with suicide rates.

        PS — it’s higher in both Cuba and New Zealand than in the US. Cuba I can understand. But NZ? Did the Proteas lose some big Test Match recently?

    • leftinbrooklyn says:

      There’s is no need to ‘raise’ militias. Every American citizen is born a member of the militia. Militias are us, the people. The US Military is ‘active’ militia. The rest of us ‘inactive’. But we were given the duty to become ‘active’ to take up our arms when necessary to defend the free state and the Constitution.

      It’s hard to grasp this in most of the rest of the world where government has dominion over, rather being subject to, it’s citizens. Lately, it seems a call to arms is becoming more urgent.

    • Andy OZ says:


      Western Australian crime stats for 2011/12.
      32,000 offences against people in one year.
      Population 2.2 Million.

      While I think Perth is a great place to live and bring up kids, I’m sure most of the US is as well. I don’t believe John Howards gun laws from 1996 has reduced gun deaths here much at all. Gun deaths halved from 1970 to 1996 because of licencing and better policing and urbanisation of the population.

    • Ivan says:

      The states-based National Guard is probably the closest thing to a “militia” that exists today.
      “The National Guard of the United States is a reserve military force composed of National Guard militia members or units of each state and the territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia (54 organizations) under federally recognized active or inactive armed force service for the United States.”

    • How was gun violence in Australia before the ban? In other words, did banning guns actually make anyone safer?

      • Also, how many gun deaths were justifiable homicide in which a law-abiding gun owner acted to defend himself against an assailant or intruder in his home?

        PS – isn’t it also true that violent crime, burglaries, and other crimes involving trespassing into homes is skyrocketing, simply because criminals honest citizens are largely defenceless? (Do boomerangs count as deadly weapons?)

  6. gator69 says:

    Australia’s demographics:

    White 92%, Asian 7%, Aboriginal and other 1%

    America’s demographics:

    White 79.96%, Hispanic 15.1% Black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61%

    We have one group that is 50 times more likely to commit a violent crime than Whites, according to DOJ statistics. We have many more of this demo than Australia. It is a cultural problem.

    • philjourdan says:

      Your numbers do not add up. They add up to (excluding the multi-racial category) 113.49%. According to the US Census (which fails math as well), the percentages are: 63.4, 16.7, 13.1, 5.0, 1.2, 0.2. That still does not add up to 100%, but they throw in a “multi” category of 2.3% which makes it over 100%.

      In other words, we know we are a polyglot, but apparently no one knows the exact numbers.

      But using your numbers or the US Census, one thing is clear. We are not the Lilly white society like Australia is.

      • gator69 says:

        Hey PJ! I didn’t bother to add them up, and had to add Hispanics back in, because for some odd reason they were excluded. Here is the entire listing I pulled from…

        “white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate)
        note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean persons of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin including those of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, Spanish, and Central or South American origin living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.); about 15.1% of the total US population is Hispanic.”

        I did not want Hispanics to feel left out. šŸ˜‰

        But yes, the point is we have a far different mix of cultures, and sadly not all cultures are equal.

        • philjourdan says:

          Ah SO! Yes, counting the multi-racial, and removing the Hispanic (which is merely a surname thing, not really a race thing), it adds up to 100%. So the next question is why the Census Bureau cannot do simple math,

  7. Laurence Crossen says:

    This is just the info I wanted but haven’t heard in the media: A militia is not a government group but every man. The liberal media has everyone thinking a militia means a government organization.

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