America is now under armed assault, a tyranny that suppresses free speech and has produced almost-daily mass- and school-shootings, in a gun ownership frenzy fed by people who claim their power comes from the Constitution.
Their entire argument — that the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to form private militias and then turn their guns against the government — is a complete and utter scam.
America is now occupied by this armed movement that regularly terrorizes racial minorities, school boards, witnesses against Donald Trump, politicians, poll workers, and LGBTQ people.
Armed “patriot” and “militia” groups in America claim that the Second Amendment gives them the right to both carry weapons and form themselves into groups for the purpose of repelling or stopping “tyranny” or a “tyrannical government.”
(Weirdly, the “tyrrany” they talk about involves raising taxes on very very rich people, letting gay people get married and women make the choice of abortion for themselves, making sure every American has healthcare and can get a college or trade school education, and raising the minimum wage.)
The gun and militia claims these people make are simply not true: in fact, many of their organizations and behaviors are criminal in both every state in the union and under federal law, as I’ll explain.
In response to demand from men in militia groups who want to cosplay as Revolutionary-era patriots or Klan-era terrorists, multiple manufacturers now sell into the civilian market a version of the M16 military rifle, typically referred to as an “AR-15 type” weapon.
These aggressively marketed civilian versions of military assault weapons are now the preferred tools for mass- and school-shooters, as well as a fashion accessory for “militia men” seeking to have their “man cards” validated (this is how one type of AR-15 was marketed).
There are an estimated 20 million of these weapons in circulation in America, and another 4 million are sold every year. They’re extraordinarily deadly and enormously profitable for their manufacturers.
AR-15 style weapons typically fire .223 rounds, first developed for use in Vietnam. The bullet exits the gun at more than 3,200 feet per second, carrying 335 foot-pounds of force (a .22 round carries 70 foot-pounds of force).
The AR-15 style weapons are so deadly that some of the children killed in Uvalde and Sandy Hook (among others) had to be identified by DNA or clothing. A single .223 round has such impact velocity that heads are literally exploded — one child in Uvalde was effectively decapitated by a single bullet — and holes blown in the body are large enough to put a fist through.
Because America did nothing to stop the proliferation of AR-15 style weapons when they began selling in large numbers in 2008, Sig Sauer is now upping the ante.
In 2017, General Mark Milley told Congress that body armor as cheap as $250 could block penetration from bullets fired by both the M-1 and M-4 type weapons that our military currently uses.
In response to his testimony, the new NGSW-AR weapon is specifically designed to penetrate pretty much every kind of body armor currently on the market.
“This is a weapon that could defeat any body armor, any planned body armor that we know of in the future,” Milley told the Army Times in 2019. “This is a very sophisticated weapon.”
While the Sig Sauer NGSW-AR won’t be available to the military for another year, Sig Sauer has already sold an estimated 5000 of their new civilian version — the MCX-SPEAR — into the general American marketplace.
“This first production run MCX-SPEAR and all of the revolutionary technology behind its development,” Sig Sauer CEO Ron Cohen announced, “is being offered to the commercial market in a configuration that is a near match to our NGSW-R submission.”
The MCX-SPEAR has twice the lethal kinetic energy of the AR-15. There won’t be a cop or politician in America who’s safe when these guns are widely available next year.
Which brings us to the people buying these weapons, the militia members and Second Amendment “patriots.”
Prior to the 1990s, they were considered the fringe of the fringe. Tim McVeigh is probably the most famous of their lot, blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, memorializing David Koresh’s 1993 last stand in Waco to the day.
McVeigh’s 1995 blow against “government tyranny” killed 168 people, 19 of them children, and crippled or injured more than 680 others.
The militia movement went largely underground after McVeigh, until the election of Barack Obama in 2008 put a Black man in the White House.
In an eerie echo of the rise of the Klan after Black people first achieved political power during Reconstruction, today’s white supremacist militia movement has exploded across the American landscape over the past 14 years since we got our first Black president.
Their main claim that they have the right to assemble in public with their weapons on display is that the Second Amendment was written by the Founders and Framers of the Constitution specifically so future generations could be well enough armed to rise up in response to a tyrannical government.
As noted, this is a lie.
Article I, Section 8 defines what a militia is in the United States, and specifically puts all legal militias under the direct control of the federal government:
“[The Congress shall have Power] To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
“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, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”
Notice that the militias are called forth to “suppress insurrections.” Nothing in there about shooting at your own government. Neither are today’s militias “organized” by our government, “armed” by our government, or even “disciplined” by our government.
The Militia Act of 1792 outlawed all private militias in the United States that are not authorized by and answerable directly to either the president or the governor of a state, and the Militia Act of 1903 doubled down (against the Klan and dozens of groups by other names affiliated with them) while largely creating what we today call the National Guard.
If that’s not specific enough, Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution — written with Shays’ Rebellion in mind — explicitly gives the government the power to protect our “Republican form of Government,” when ordered by either Congress or the president, “against domestic Violence.”
Reading the Constitution for any reference to unauthorized militias taking on a “tyrannical” US government, the only explicit reference you’ll find is Article III, Section 3. It clearly lays out that when private militias like those who attacked our Capitol on January 6th show up, it’s called treason:
“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
War is the use of armed violence to achieve political ends. If the armed, uniformed militias who attacked our Capitol on January 6th weren’t “levying War against” us, what were they doing?
Sure, James Madison did write in Federalist 46 that should the federal government ever become tyrannical the “armed” militias could take it down, but read the entire paragraph rather than the fragment often quoted: Madison was explicitly talking about state militias, authorized and armed by state governments and commanded by state governors, not private militias.
He thought in the worst possible situation, enough states would have enough sense to set things right even if that required the use of force. But never in his wildest dreams did he mean to suggest that random groups of civilians should get together and start shooting at police or government officials, or blowing up federal buildings.
Also, the Federalist Papers are not law; they were merely the sales pitch that Hamilton and Madison put together in 1788 to sell ratification of the Constitution. So even if you want to take them out of context or interpret them in some bizarre fashion, it’s meaningless. Taking up arms against your government is still treason, and that is still a crime. The highest of High Crimes, in fact.
So that’s what’s in the Constitution and Federalist Papers. But what do our state and federal laws say about private militias?
Turns out there’s a lot of laws about private militias, and most of them date back either to early rebellions like Daniel Shays’ (which led to the death sentence for treason against 18 men) or the rise of the Klan after Reconstruction.
Every one of the 50 states today explicitly outlaws private militias, either by constitution or law or both. Virginia, the home of Madison, Jefferson, Henry, Mason, Washington, etc., was the first, putting into their constitution in 1776:
“That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense 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.” [emphasis mine]
Forty-eight of the 50 states have similar clauses in their constitutions requiring any militia in the state to be subordinate to civilian authorities: typically the governor, occasionally the legislature, or both. (Georgia and New York are the exceptions.)
Twenty-nine states have specific laws outlawing private militias altogether (Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming).
Twenty-five states, as the Brennan Center for Justice notes:
“[H]ave laws that generally prohibit teaching, demonstrating, instructing, training, and practicing in the use of firearms, explosives, or techniques capable of causing injury or death, for use during or in furtherance of a civil disorder.”
(They include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington.)
As you can see, there are a lot of laws on the books that are not being enforced right now.
And it’s not like this is a new issue: back in 1886 the US Supreme Court ruled, in Presser v Illinois (upholding state anti-militia laws), that:
“It cannot be successfully questioned that the state governments, unless restrained by their own constitutions, have the power to regulate or prohibit associations and meetings of the people … and have also the power to control and regulate the organization, drilling, and parading of military bodies and associations, except when such bodies or associations are authorized by the militia laws of the United States.
“The exercise of this power by the states is necessary to the public peace, safety, and good order. To deny the power would be to deny the right of the state to disperse assemblages organized for sedition and treason, and the right to suppress armed mobs bent on riot and rapine.”
Back in 1907, when the Klan was the main white supremacist militia of the day (although it operated under multiple different names in various states), the Washington Supreme Court ruled that:
“Armed bodies of men are a menace to the public. Their mere presence is fraught with danger, and the state has wisely reserved to itself the right to organize, maintain, and employ them.”
As recently as 1982, a federal court in Texas disbanded a white supremacist private militia known as the Texas Emergency Reserve (a branch of the Klan) that had been harassing Vietnamese fishermen, banning them from “trading and parading in public with firearms.”
In summary, the unwillingness of our government — under both Republican and Democratic administrations — to restrain the lethality of military-style weaponry in civilian hands and to enforce laws against private militias have left us in a very dangerous situation.
Republicans, believing the militias are their natural allies, have encouraged the proliferation of these weapons and the people carrying them, particularly since Obama’s election 14 years ago. Some, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, even use them for security at public events.
Democrats have either ignored the growing threat or, when they try to take action, been thwarted by Republicans and a handful of sellout Democrats in the Senate still taking big bucks from the weapons industry.
One-in-five Americans tell researchers they believe political violence is sometimes justified in America against other Americans, and an estimated 18 million Americans say they’d be willing to kill another American to achieve a political goal. If action isn’t taken soon, the proverbial chickens are damn close to coming home to roost.
Independent Media Institute
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.