National Guard and the “militia” aren’t the same thing

In her Saturday letter on sending the National Guard to the border, Phoebe Dinsmore makes a common error. She thinks the militia and the National Guard are the same thing. They are not.

The National Guard was not created until the 1890s, so when our founders used the term “militia” in the Constitution and the Second Amendment, they could not possibly have been referring to the National Guard. At our founding, the term “militia” was understood to mean all able-bodied men (today we would include women) capable of bearing arms, and this definition was later codified in a federal statute. So the militia comprises all adult citizens capable of bearing arms.

The National Guard is the organized professional military force of a state under the command of the governor. Today, governors have the power to call out the militia or the National Guard whenever they perceive a threat to the peace and security of the state. The president has the power to make the National Guard part of the federal military establishment.

Apparently this is what the president has done, but the media have not explained clearly how the process worked this time.

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