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The U.S. Militia

Guide Extra: 08/31/99

Gun control debates often focus on the relevance of the Second Amendment’s call for a "well regulated militia" in light of our modern organized military.

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." – The Second Amendment to Constitution of the United States.

Specifically, the argument is made that the US either no longer has a militia, or that the National Guard now serves as the militia envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

But, in fact, Title 10 of the United States Code provides for both "organized" and "unorganized" civilian militias. While the organized militia is made up of members of the National Guard and Naval Militia, the unorganized militia is composed entirely of private individuals.

United States Code: Title 10 – Armed Forces
Subtitle A – General Military Law
Chapter 13 – The Militia

Sec. 311. Militia: composition and classes

  • (a) 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.
  • (b) The classes of the militia are -
    • (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard
      and the Naval Militia; and
    • (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of
      the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
      Naval Militia.


Other than age, health, gender, or citizenship, there are no additional provisions for exemption from membership in the unorganized militia.

While it is doubtful that it will ever be called to duty, the United States civilian militia does legally exist.

Reference Links:

Title 10, Subtitle A, Chapter 13 -- United States Code
Militia: composition and classes -- from Cornell University

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