America being a free country, the handful of people who call themselves the “Michigan Militia,” the “Michigan Liberty Militia,” the “Michigan Militia Corps,” or some similar name can call themselves pretty much anything they want. After all, people have often assumed names, titles, or descriptions to which they are not entitled.
Examples are many. Countless lunatics have claimed to be Jesus Christ. Al Gore claimed he invented the internet. Barack Obama’s apologists claim his administration was scandal-free. Kanye West called himself “the greatest artist that God has ever created.” Aspiring modern-day Jacobins call themselves “social justice warriors.” Perhaps most creatively, Idi Amin called himself “Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.”
However, for those of us dealing with reality, Michigan has three militia components and the aforementioned groups (hereafter, the “make-believers”) aren’t among them. Ironically, Michigan’s true militia organizations answer to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the “tyrant” some of the make-believers think they can intimidate by swaggering around with rifles while they protest her virus lockdown order.
The three components of Michigan’s militia are its Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and Volunteer Defense Force, all operated under the state’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and answerable to its governor and adjutant general. Under federal law, Michigan’s Army and Air Guards are parts of the organized component of the Militia of the United States. That law, 10 U.S.C. 246 (previously section 311), reads:
The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
The classes of the militia are the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
Due solely to their sex and age, male make-believers ages 17-45 are part of the unorganized component of the Militia of the United States.
However, Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power “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.” While the Second Amendment guarantees the fundamental right of all of us to keep and bear arms individually, the Constitution and federal law are clear that organizing armed individuals into operational militias is a function of government.
This has been the case since our colonial period. As John Shy, military historian and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, wrote in “A People Numerous & Armed,” “In 1632 the Virginia Assembly told every man fit to carry a gun to bring it to church, that he might exercise with it after the service. One hundred forty-four years later, the legislature of Revolutionary Massachusetts ordered men between the ages of sixteen and fifty to be enrolled in the militia, to provide their own weapons and equipment, and to be mustered and trained periodically by their duly commissioned officers.”
Michael Cecere, the author of 11 books on the American Revolution, has written that the rise of independent militias in the colonies followed an extraordinary series of British abuses, including “the military occupation of Boston, the closure of Boston Harbor, and the suspension of Massachusetts’ charter and colonial government.”
Second Amendment scholar Stephen Halbrook, in “That Every Man Be Armed,” wrote that in the days before the revolution, “The cry for independent militias, composed of citizens who would keep their own arms, spread through the colonies at the end of 1774 and during the beginning of 1775,” with action toward the formation of the militias taken by provincial committees and conventions from Delaware to Maryland to Virginia. Most famous among Virginia’s militias is that of Fairfax County, which served under Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Furthermore, the Second Amendment, ratified while Washington was president, notes that a militia is “necessary to the security of a free State.” And of the 44 states the constitutions of which guarantee the right to arms, 33 list among the reasons for doing so the defense of the state, common defense, or to assist the civil power. Among this group is Michigan, the constitution of which declares. “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.”
A militia is formed with the imprimatur of a body of government to assure that it reflects the will of the people on whose behalf it purports to act. For a small fraction of 1 percent of a state’s residents to appropriate the noble term “militia” for themselves, and under that banner act as only a very small percentage of their fellow state residents approves, is without legitimate historical basis.
On Thursday, Michigan’s legislature cancelled its session, reportedly out of concern over the inappropriate carrying of rifles by a tiny percentage of Michiganders who protested in Lansing against Gov. Whitmer’s lockdown order last week. If the make-believers’ goal is to boost their testosterone, they might, after obtaining approval from their physicians, ask certified fitness trainers show them how to do dead lifts and weighted squats.
But if their goal is to have Whitmer’s order rescinded, overridden, or overruled, they are failing miserably. As The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway recently reminded us in another context, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. The make-believers are probably not insane, but their antics are not helping to move the ball in the right direction down the field.