There’s been a lot in the news lately about militias (the anti-government, criminal type), which got me thinking about militias (the ‘fought the British and gained our independence’ type). That led me to some research about the Virginia militia, and that led me to an interesting fact:
I’m in a militia.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to blow up a federal building or anything. I knew I was in a militia under the original meaning of the term which, as George Mason so succinctly explained, is a military force made up of “all men.” It turns out that, in Virginia at least, this original meaning is actually codified in state law. Under the Code of Virginia §44.1:
The militia of the Commonwealth of Virginia shall consist of all able-bodied citizens of this Commonwealth and all other able-bodied persons resident in this Commonwealth who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, who are at least sixteen years of age and, except as hereinafter provided, not more than fifty-five years of age. [Emphasis added.]
We Virginia militiamen are broken into four classes under the code:
- The first and most well-known class is the Virginia National Guard. This encompasses the Virginia Army National Guard and the Virginia Air National Guard. Both answer to the Governor of Virginia (as Commander-in-Chief of the Virginia military) under normal circumstances, and can also be called up by the federal government.
- The second class is the Virginia Defense Force. This is a military component of the Virginia militia made up of about 900 volunteers, which operates very similarly to the National Guard but cannot be called up by the federal government. It is, essentially, a small military force that answers only to the Commonwealth of Virginia and her citizens.
- The third class is the naval militia, about which I can find almost no information whatsoever. I don’t even know if this really exists any more. If it does, it’s very, very quiet.
- The fourth and final class is the unorganized militia. This is made up of people, like me, who meet the definition of members of the militia under §44.1 but aren’t in one of the other three components.
So I’m in a militia and, if you’re an ‘able-bodied’ Virginian, so are you!
One of the biggest arguments against a universal right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment is the argument (based on its unfortunate 18th century grammar) that it only applies to people in a militia. Well, guess what . . . even if you subscribe to this erroneous interpretation, I’m in a militia!