by Eric Vought
Gun-control advocates like to say that the militia, and therefore the Second Amendment, is obsolete. We have professional forces of police, Guard, and military now, and citizen participation is simply not necessary. Ferguson gives the lie to that argument. If a volunteer law enforcement chaplain, black, had been available to stand vigil over the body during the long crime-scene investigation, would it have made a difference? If the community knew that volunteers, involved in the day-to-day operation of the police and the periphery of the investigation would blow the whistle if something was swept under the rug, would that have made a difference?
If, at the moment the situation got out of hand and rioters (primarily from outside the community by all accounts) began causing destruction, the local police had called up *local volunteers* to restore order, would that have made a difference? If local people were seeing neighbors and friends on the line protecting stores, homes, and businesses rather than an occupying force in masks, would that have made a difference? If a local community member, under authority of the county Sheriff, had been present to observe and supervise the police brought in from outside, would the journalists have been man-handled and arrested in McDonalds?
Getting volunteers from the community involved in law enforcement, getting them organized, equipped, and trained is not easy. Getting the community to take ownership of their volunteers is not easy. In Lawrence County, ranchers concerned about their livestock know that many of the volunteers on patrol are cattlemen themselves (my family raises sheep, mea culpa). They know that the Sheriff is working directly with local cattlemen to offer the best protection possible and that makes them more patient with the fact that the system is not perfect. Ranchers knowing they are part of the solution are less likely to take the law into their own hands. We still fall short in representation here: we have no volunteers from the large Latino community, for instance, and must make efforts to amend that, but we have to start somewhere.
Getting a truly representative police force in Ferguson will take time, perhaps a full generation. Directly engaging volunteers would be a stepping stone in that process, and visible efforts in the right direction *might* give people the patience needed to see it through. Perhaps the founders depended on militias partly because they could afford little else in the early days of our country, but they also made it clear that a citizens’ militia— locals taking care of their own— was more likely to be trusted and less likely to be abused. The world is different now, but some principles remain the same through the ages. Perhaps it is time to take a page from the founders’ book in Ferguson.
Image courtesy of Chris Huggins.