Like It or Not, We Are the Militia

by Jessica Mainard, Collegiate Programs Director - SAF

The militia is often discussed in the pro-gun foundation where I work. Usually I’m on the other side of the fence arguing against its existence. Being young, maybe I just don’t understand. I’ve never felt the need to enlist into a military service that does not even exist in any measurable way. I even remember saying just six months ago “Why do we need a militia? We’re the leaders of the free world. We’re the United States of America.”

This question came to mind again while reading an Internet newsgroup post, so I researched the history and definition of this “militia.” Often people refer to “militias” as those people with bunkers in the mountains and all varieties of strange political beliefs. Sometimes you’ll even hear people argue that the militia is actually now the National Guard (which was once state militias and later nationalized to become an armed service) but in fact that is not the case.

The ready militia is defined in 10 USC 311 as: “All able-bodied males at least 17 years of age…and under 45 years of age who are or have made a declaration of intention to become citizens of the United States.” Additionally, another provision allows for a reserve militia, which includes women, children and the elderly.

The interesting thing is just how implausible the militia really is. It cannot be summoned by any government, but must be mustered from within. Additionally, there is no penalty for not fulfilling a militia responsibility. How does one know when it is his or her responsibility to muster the militia?

I wondered what form a “muster” might take. A guy standing on the street with a bugle, playing some civil-war-era charge? Maybe a broadcasted call to arms?

My eyes fell on a article from the Washington Times. Peter Hannaford wrote about United Airlines’ September 19 flight 564 at Denver International Airport.

On the tarmac, waiting for takeoff, the pilot addressed the passengers giving directions on how to attack and disarm a would-be terrorist. He closed his comments just before takeoff saying:

The Declaration of Independence says “We the People” and that is just what it is when we’re in the air; we, the people, vs. would-be terrorists. I don’t think that we’re going to have any such problem today or tomorrow, or for a while, but sometime down the road its going to happen again, and I want you to know what to do. Now, since we’re family for the next few hours, I’ll ask you to turn to the person next to you, introduce yourself, and ask them to do the same.”

As his statement ended, all of the passengers began to applaud. I read this for at least the third time before I realized that this pilot has just mustered his own militia, and moreover, this was not the first time that’s happened recently.

Reports from cellular phone calls show that the passengers (quite possibly all of the passengers) of flight 93 took a vote to attack the hijackers who may have been intending to crash the jet into the White House or Capitol.

From among those passengers, volunteers stepped forward to attack the hijackers. Unarmed, with no defenses, a stewardess boiled water in the galley to be used as a weapon, hoping to injure or distract their captors. The volunteers then phoned mothers, wives and friends. One even called a telephone operator asking her to pass a message to his wife and kids, and to recite the Lords’ prayer with him.

The volunteers on that flight were not as well qualified as many soldiers in defense, but they were capable of mounting their attack. Mark Bingham was a physically fit Rugby player who had once wrestled a gun from a mugger’s hand. Tom Burnet was a star quarterback in high school he was fast and muscular. Jeremy Glick was a judo champion, and Todd Beamer, a father of three, sounded their final battle cry. Ending his phone call to the telephone operator, he shouted “Are you guys ready? Let’s Roll!”

These brave men died in a field in rural Pennsylvania. Hardly a glamorous or overwhelming show of force, with no war or obvious victors. Some people are even critical of the decision to award them the President’s Medal of Freedom, and Purple Hearts for their courage and sacrifice.

This passenger militia left a legacy and a new standard of duty for their children, and an entire generation. My generation. Showing us that there is no such thing as great men, only ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances. Men who rise to the occasion like they did.

I’d like to close with a poem from Herman Melville, ironically, written the day President Abraham Lincoln died. There is a sobbing of the strong,

And a pall upon the land;
But the people in their weeping,
Bare an Iron hand;
Beware the people weeping when they bare the iron hand.

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Jessica Mainard

Second Amendment Foundation

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