The Surprising Truth About Militias and the Second Amendment

Here’s something surprising I learned last year. When the founding fathers spoke of “militias,” they were not referring to a bunch of yahoos running around in the woods with paint on their faces outside of state control. They were referring to a citizen army under state control.

But isn’t that what our army is?


The founding fathers knew they needed to provide for the common defense, but they saw standing armies controlled by a central government as an immediate threat to the viability of the new union. A standing army is one made up of professional, full-time soldiers like the US Army, the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force.

The founders had seen standing armies cause all sorts of problem in the centuries before. They had also seen how kings and queens would wield them to impose their will and oppress the people. They believed a standing army would only undermine what they were trying to accomplish. Remember: the world then was ruled by monarchies. The founders had never seen a standing army wielded by any other type of power.

So if you don’t have a standing (permanent) army, how can you defend your country?

The founding fathers thought they had found a solution in a tradition of duty that went back hundreds of years in England, all the way back to the fyrd, which was the name of the Saxon army made up of landowners that were duty-bound to fight. This tradition simply stated that it was the duty of every land-owning man between certain ages to provide their own arms and defend the land when called by their leaders.

But these weren’t full-time soldiers. And the army wasn’t meant to be permanent. Citizen armies were to be called out when needed, and when the crisis was over, they were to go back home. They were controlled by the king. But it was not to be a standing army.

The founders took this idea and tweaked it. It was still a temporary citizen army. The states still controlled them. But now the Federal government would help fund the weapons, and the state governments would organize, command, and regulate the militias and issue the weapons.

BTW, this had nothing to do with personal firearms for hunting and protecting yourself. Back then, owning personal firearms was just accepted. This was all about how regulate an army that would protect the country from foreign invaders.

So militias, as thought of by the founders in the 1700s, were not groups outside the government’s control. They were temporary citizen armies, a way to separate the powers of the military so they couldn’t accumulate centrally and come under control of a king or queen or handful of politicians.

So let’s look at the language of the Second Amendment in light of this context.

“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.”

It’s all about keeping the power of the military from accumulating to a central government.

The problem is militias didn’t work to provide for the common defense. Not well enough.

It didn’t work during the Revolutionary War. They had to create the Continental Army. That army was supported by the militias, but the colonists found they couldn’t rely on the militias. They had to have the regular army to fight the British.

After the war, the Continental Army was disbanded, but the militias simply weren’t good enough to face the threats the new nation faced, and George Washington himself openly lamented it. They took a licking in 1791 and then again during the war of 1812, being routed time and again.

Heck, militias didn’t even work in the days of the fyrd. The Saxon and Norman kings relied on their house warriors and mercenaries and only supplemented with the fyrd.

So the early leaders of the USA soon realized they needed a regular army with the training and skill it possessed. And they decided to form one soon after that defeat in 1791. It began in 1792. The standing army was small. But it grew again during the war of 1812. And it continued to grow until we now have the regular armed forces of the US (the standing army) and the National Guard. BTW, that National Guard is what the militias transformed into, but, wouldn’t you know it, even the National Guard is now mostly under the control of the Federal government.

What does this mean?

It means we now have the most powerful standing army the world has ever known and almost no militia. It means our military is a complete 180 of what the founders envisioned. I’m not saying it’s bad. I love our military. I’m merely pointing out that militias back then meant a certain thing and were thought useful for a certain reason. And we have completely replaced that arrangement with the very thing it was devised to prevent.


Three Wikipedia articles:

What’s driving the rise in school shootings?

Homicide rates are down in America, but school shootings are up. What’s going on? What’s driving this?

Some say it’s guns.

I have an hunch that I think deserves some study.

Back in the 1970s we had 30 school shootings with a population of about 216 million.

Today we have a population of 320 million. If we had the same ratio of shootings to population today, we’d have 44 shootings total in the decade between 2010 and 2020. But from 2000 – 2010, we had 60. And since 2010 (if my data is correct, and it appears that’s a big if–see Edit 2 at bottom) we’ve had 146. That’s a 300% increase!

If we want to solve the school shooting problem in the long term, we need to figure out what’s fueling it. One way to get at this is to ask what’s changed since the 1970s and 80s when the rates were lower.

Are we killing at a higher rate in general? Is that what’s changed?

No. FiveThirtyEight reports homicide rates have dropped. Here’s their chart.

We’re down.

But school shootings are up. Way up!

Clearly, what’s driving school shootings doesn’t seem to be the same thing that’s driving general homicide rates. Otherwise, the rates would be moving in the same direction, but they’re not.

Is it gun ownership rates?

According to the Washington Post, ownership rates are at their lowest in quite some time. Here’s their chart.

This means that if general gun ownership rates were a major factor, then we’d be seeing school shooting rates fall. We’re not.

Furthermore, some of the US states with the highest gun ownership rates have the lowest murder and school shooting rates. (For those wanting to know more about guns, magazines, the definition of an assault rifle, gun control, etc. see Larry Correia’s informational post below.)

Now, it could be that while overall gun ownership rates have fallen, ownership in certain population segments has risen. That’s something to look at. But when looking at the overall ownership rate, we don’t find an answer.

Is there anything else to study? Anything else that might be different now?

Here’s my hunch–it’s the internet. My hunch is that an unintended consequence of social media and the ease of finding certain types of content have facilitated the development of the mindset and ability of certain youth to commit these crimes.

We do things when we are prompted to take a specific action and we have both the ability and desire necessary to take that action. So action requires three things:

  1. A prompt
  2. The ability
  3. The desire

If the rates are going up, then one or more of those things have changed. Either more kids are being prompted to take this specific action, we’ve made it easier for them to do it, or we’ve increased their desire to do it. Or some combination of those three.

Let’s see if the internet might be a factor.

First, from what I’ve read, it seems a lot of these kids feel like outcasts and seem to be seeking some kind of revenge. Does social media foster and facilitate more bullying and isolation and, therefore, more resentment? Has it increased the desire to conduct such attacks?

Second, it is dramatically easier for kids to learn how to do all sorts of stuff now. Back in the 70s and 80s, it was hard to learn about the methods and tactics of crime, firearms, etc. Now, if you want to learn how to shoot, scope a place out, plan an attack, do all sorts of things, you can watch YouTube videos on it. Has the easy accessibility of how-to instruction facilitated the ability to plan and carry out these attacks?

Third, back in the 70s and 80s you had limited programming. Gilligan’s Island, Brady Bunch, The Love Boat, The Donny and Marie Show, Lawrence Welk, etc. They all fostered good-citizen values. Today, kids have easy access to all sorts of crap. Violent rape porn. Evil games like Blue Whale that give challenges to the player, and the last is to kill yourself. Are there certain types of programming on the internet that foster a violent mindset? That prompt these very actions and makes them seem like a good alternative?

Fourth, look at how well political conversations go on Facebook. Chat rooms, blogs, etc.–we all know they foster more incivility than when you talk in person. Does our social media, by its very structure, anonymity, etc. foster a more anger-filled approach to disagreements? Has it prompted, even trained, more kids to behave this way?

Is one of the unintended consequences of the internet and social media a rise in school shootings?

I’m not saying it’s the only part of the puzzle. But I do think it’s worth studying. We need a long-term solution.

At the same time, we need something now while that long-term solution is being researched and implemented. One of the best ideas I’ve seen so far to stop the killings is the one mentioned here.

Such people are screened, trained, and on-site. They can respond immediately. Plus it’s voluntary. If you’re a teacher that doesn’t want to do this, you don’t have to. Plus this doesn’t add security guards to schools. Nothing changes at the school until the shooter shows up, and suddenly there are half a dozen, dozen, two dozen deputies immediately there.

I think at our tiny 1A middle school, there are probably 6-8 people who would do this, including my wife. The teachers know the kids, know where other teachers are likely to be, know the place like the back of their hands. We know security deters threats. I can’t see anything but positives.

I don’t like the fact that we have to contemplate this. I want to go back to my youth in Bountiful, Utah where this never happened. Maybe we can get back to that type of a society. Until then we need an immediate, practical, and effective solution. This seems like a good part of a multi-approach solution.

But what’s the long-term solution?

I wonder if has to do with the internet.

Is any organization seriously studying this?

Do you see anything else that might have increased the prompts for this specific action, the ability to plan and conduct attacks, or the motivation to do so?

Edit 1 – gun retention

On Facebook today, a former deputy sheriff I know and respect was asked “Should teachers carry guns?” His answer: “No. Weapon retention is never even considered when politicians and others come up with that. Imagine some big, unfriendly student disarming a teacher during some classroom issue. Instant problem.”

This is a good point to raise.

I didn’t think of it. It’s clear none of the teacher defense plans are complete without it.

But is it a show stopper?

First of all, how big a risk is this? How many student-teacher scuffles do we have in grades 1-6 where the teacher is overpowered by a third-grader? How about in middle school? I’m sure the risk is higher in high school.

But just because there’s a risk doesn’t always mean you shouldn’t do something. Male and female agents and officers are trained in retention. My question is whether such retention training is ineffective? Should officers not carry guns because of this?

If it is effective, then it seems to me that if you’re trained, you’re trained. A big senior boy has just as much chance to disarm a trained cop as a trained non-cop of the same size and strength.

This is another reason I like the suggestion of the sheriff above. It’s not just any teacher that would do this. They need to be screened and trained. They’re deputized. I could see them doing training on a frequent basis. Something goes down at at school, and you immediately have 6-8 trained deputies on site. Maybe a dozen or more. Is that not a game changer?

It’s good to identify risks. But what would reduce the risks identified? Could we reduce them to acceptable levels? It’s a question that needs answering.

Edit 2 – is the “rise” due to bad data?

Just saw this. Is the “rise in school shootings” even real? Or is it bad data? Here’s an opinion on USA Today, suggesting it might not be as bad as we think. One of the things that’s maddening about all of this is what seems to be a lack of good data!


Good Stuff! Tiny Habits

We’re told we can change.

We’re told that a key is to write “SMART” goals. Make them specific, measurable, realistic, and focused on results. Give them a deadline. And, for heaven’s sake, put them to paper because “a goal that is not written down is just a wish.”

We’re told a key is to dream, that “whatever the mind can believe, it can achieve.”

We’re told that the key to changing our life is changing our habits, and that they way to change our habits is to stick with something for twenty-one days.

Except, well, how many habits have you been successful in establishing?

How many of those lofty goals have you achieved?

How many New Year’s resolutions have you really followed through with?

The problem is that all of the good advice on goals and habits seems to only work for other people. And I grant that there might be some AAA+++ personalities out there with megawatts of motivation who seem to be able to do whatever they set their mind to.

But that triple A plus personality passed me by. It passed a lot of us by.

So are we doomed?

B.J. Fogg, a Stanford researcher, says no. There’s hope for all of us. Because the key is not in having megawatts of motivation.

It’s not that we disregard the power of motivation. It’s just that motivation, Fogg has found, is never constant. It comes in waves. And while we certainly want to take advantage of it when it comes and do things that increase it, a much more effective way to grow habits and meet goals and change our lives is to focus on the other things that drive behavior.

Fogg has spent his career studying persuasion and habit. He works with companies to help them create products that are habit-forming. Think about Facebook, Twitter, or Candy Crush, and the habits those products form. These and similar companies have implemented the principles of habit so well that their products have become, for some, something of an addiction.

So what’s the secret?

Fogg has identified three things that must be present if we’re going to do something:

  1. The motivation to do it
  2. The ability to do it
  3. A trigger to remind us to do it

When those three things are present, we act. And we often do so without thinking. If one of those three elements is missing, we don’t act. So if we want to start a new habit, we need to focus on these three things.

But if motivation goes up and down, then we don’t want to rely on that part of the equation. Fogg’s insight is that it’s much easier and more effective to focus on the ability and the trigger parts.

When we focus on the ability, we make the habit we want to form so tiny and small that it’s super easy to do. Such tiny behaviors require only the smallest levels of motivation. And if we’ve planted them in good ground (at a time of day where they can expand and linked to a good trigger), those tiny habits eventually grow into the full blown big habit we wanted all along.

Does this work?

Well, I started Fogg’s Tiny Habits back at the beginning of December. And I’m happy to report that starting new habits using this approach has been easy.

Like falling off a log easy.

For example, because I work on the computer, I know that to increase my health, I need to get at least forty minutes of good, heart-pumping activity each day. But did I start there? No.

Did I start at twenty minutes?


Ten minutes?


Five? Surely, I started at five minutes.


The Tiny Habits approach suggests starting much smaller. I started with doing one push up after I used the restroom. And it was an incline pushup on the stairs, which my daughter found hilarious.

Yes, that’s how tiny you start them. Something that takes less than 30 seconds.

That tiny habit grew. And I am now doing 60 regular floor pushups each day, plus 75 curls, 75 flies, 75 squats, and 75 bicycle crunches. It’s about 25 minutes of good activity. And it’s only going to grow. Come April, I’m pretty sure I’ll be around 100 pushups every day.

And there was no twenty-one day business. Fogg has found that’s not the secret. Habits can form in just a few days.

I started the delicious habit of kissing my wife for at least five seconds each day. Along with a five-second hug. And then a little more kissing, and little more hugging, and a little more kissing (when I can steal it). Did I mention it was delicious? This is a highly-recommend habit.

I started the habit of daily morning scripture reading. I have tried to be consistent for years and couldn’t do it. But with this new approach, I think I’ve missed three times in the last two months.

I started the habit of beginning the day with a positive thought, the habit of turning off my wireless mouse when I’m done at my desk, and I’ve also made great headway against the mother of all habits for me—going to bed by 10 PM.

I can easily stay up until one a.m. reading, “researching” on the internet, wasting time watching political videos, or Facebooking. Or a million other things. This bad habit is so ingrained it is almost like someone else is controlling me. All day long I say I’ll go to bed only to find myself, yet again well past dark, screwing up my life plans. It’s like some evil villain has me on remote. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to “motivate” myself to change this. All to no avail.

But with the tiny habits approach, I finally figured out the triggers that were driving it. Then I engineered other triggers and tiny habits to replace them. And now my computer is off and behind a closed door most of the time in the evenings. I’m actually getting to bed. It’s huge progress. There are still some kinks to work out, but it’s only going to grow.

I found the Tiny Habits program through my insurance provider. They had an annual wellness check in November, and on their website they had a link to Tiny Habits. I clicked, signed up for their tiny program, and I’m so happy I did.

I’m hooked on tiny habits.

And the cool thing is that you can begin learning and developing your ability to plant and grow tiny habits too. For free.

If you want to change your life, I think you will love their free five-day, three-habit program. It’s there to teach you how to create tiny habits, triggers, and celebrate.

Let me also recommend a few videos. Here’s the best video I’ve found that explains Fogg’s model of behavior and why tiny habits work.

And here’s the best video that explains the pitfalls of relying mostly on motivation instead of bringing in the other two Musketeers.

Researchers say that between 40-70% of all we do each day is driven by habit and external triggers. We think we’re exercising our agency all day long, but it’s an illusion. We’re not. Most of the day we’re running on auto pilot and responding to triggers. But we can change those routines. That’s the promise of tiny habits. And so far, the results for me have been promising. Give it a try. I think you’ll be happy you did.


SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. SMART goals are helpful. But the key, Fogg has found, is in not trying to eat the whole SMART whale in one bite. Instead, you start with the tiniest part of the very first step. And then watch as the habit grows.

I reviewed The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg back in 2012. It provided great insight about habits, but not a tested program to actually change them. In fact, the author states himself that his book doesn’t provide a program, just a way of thinking about habits. I tried to apply his insights, and, as expected, wasn’t very successful in changing things. But Fogg and his Tiny Habits fills that gap in a spectacular way. Read Duhigg for great stories and insights about habits in general. But go to Fogg for a tested program that will guide you step by step.

Drovers Update: Draft 2 finished


I just typed the final words of draft 2 of the first book of The Drovers. It now goes to my beta readers (I’m the alpha reader, the one who sees draft 1). And while they’re reading, I will begin draft 2 of the second book.

This is the shortest novel I’ve ever written, clocking in at 61,000 words. My target was 50,000 words, the average size of a Louis L’Amour western. But this will do. Depending on the beta reader feedback, I may add or cut a few thousand words. But not much.

I still don’t have a series name, dang it!

The Queen’s Drovers?

Drovers Update: second draft finished up to climax!

I  have been making progress on my next novel. Today, I revised the second draft up to the climax. Tomorrow, I get into it. It’s going to be an awesome battle with lots of heroics. Can’t wait. You’ll notice the progress meter. I thought the book would be 35k. A quickie. But it’s probably going to end up at 60k. Almost twice as long, but still the shortest novel I’ve ever written.

You can see some of the images I’ve been gathering for this on Pinterest.

The thing that’s eluding me at this point is the name of the series itself.