Gun Quotes : Militia Meaning
At the time of the writing, the definition of militia was, "The whole body of civilians, that are NOT part of the regular army”. Since the Guard/Reserves are part of the regular army (or reserves), they are the unorganized militia (which was everyone else). Basically, anyone old enough to defend their home, town or country (that was not in the army already) was the militia.
But even today, the meaning hasn’t changed as much as some think. Some people mistakenly think it means reserves or National Guard (established 1903, and subject to federal control) — but since those didn’t exist at the time of authoring, there is no way it could have been the type of body envisioned by the framers. Today’s legal definition is, the "militia" consists of "all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age”, with a few exclusions for medical, mental or job deferments (by their choice) (10 U.S.C. 311 and 32 U.S.C. 313).
You don’t have to take my word for it, there are multiple Constitutional rulings and the words of the authors listed below — but they’re all variants of the following:
- 1 Quotes
- 2 Supporting Opinions
"...It is always dangerous to the liberties of the people to have an army stationed among them, over which they have no control...The Militia is composed of free Citizens. There is therefore no Danger of their making use of their power to the destruction of their own Rights, or suffering others to invade them."
~ Samuel Adams
"...A well-regulated Milita, composed of the Gentlemen, Freeholders, and other Freemen was necessary to protect our ancient laws and liberty from the standing army...”
~ George Mason
"A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves...and include all men capable of bearing arms . . . To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms…"
~ Richard Henry Lee
Additional Letters From the Federal Farmer 53, 1788
"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people... To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
~ George Mason
during Virginia's ratification convention, 1788
"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”
~ George Mason
3 Elliott, Debates at 425-426
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age...
~ Federal Law: 10 U.S.C. § 311.
Militia: composition and classes
"The right of bearing arms for a lawful purpose is not a right granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.”
~ U.S. vs Cruikshank
"The argument that today's National Guardsmen, members of a select militia, would constitute the only persons entitled to keep and bear arms has no historical foundation.”
~ Joyce Lee Malcolm
Professor of History.