Presser v. Illinois

Reader Addison emailed me with a link to this piece:

Militia proposal misfires

By Jeremiah Horrigan
Times Herald-Record
[email protected]

New Paltz – Mike Peters is finding he hasn’t got many friends in high places.

Peters is chairman of the SUNY New Paltz chapter of College Republicans. He and three other campus leaders have made a national stir lately by advocating an on-campus gun-toting militia.

But last week, he lost the support of the National Rifle Association, which canceled at the last minute a scheduled lecture sponsored by the College Republicans.

So much for the gun lobby.

And now, the 200,000-member national organization behind the New Paltz chapter of the College Republicans has bailed on Peters for supporting the militia idea.

The College Republican National Committee has issued a statement distancing itself from the local group, saying it “lacks sensible action.”

“It appears these allegations against the university police force “¦ are unsubstantiated,” a spokeswoman for the group said in a statement.

Peters said he was surprised by the national group’s statement.

“I can’t see why they’d be upset with a group defending Second- and Fourth- Amendment rights, except for the name,” he said.

The name – “militia” – is the root of the Peters’ problem, according to Ira Margolis, a part-time SUNY student and an NRA trainer who helped organize the aborted NRA lecture.

“It’s a bad term – but they’re college kids, what do they know? They’re still learning,” he said.

He also included this follow-on:

NRA cancels presentation at New Paltz

By Jeremiah Horrigan
Times Herald-Record
[email protected]

New Paltz – Something happened to the National Rifle Association on its way to presenting a lecture at SUNY New Paltz yesterday – it “wimped” out.

That was the phrase that came immediately to the lips of several people who learned upon their arrival at a campus lecture hall of the NRA’s cancellation of its presentation

Perhaps even more surprisingly, one of the organizers of the event was told the cancellation came as the result of the publicity surrounding a proposed gun-toting militia on campus.

A spokesman for the NRA could not be reached for comment at press time.

Mike Peters, chairman of the College Republican club that sponsored the event, said he was shocked by the cancellation.

Peters had expected to field questions about the proposed militia following the talk.

Instead, he answered questions from students who challenged the need for arms on campus, a challenge that Peters generally agreed with.

He said the news media had sensationalized the issue. “We got attention, much more than we ever expected, but it obscured many other aspects of our arguments,” he said.

His comment to me was,

Now, as it happens, this is an interesting stunt, but without high-caliber (hah!) Civil Rights attnys on the speeddial, going to be pretty useless, after all.

But, the NRA cancelled a speech there? Why, couldn’t they say “Well, we disagree with how they’re going about this, but it’s no reason we can’t still talk about items of importance to us?”

My reply to him was pretty simple:

As to the “student militia” thing, that’s a non-starter, and I sort of understand why the NRA would shy away. The Supreme Court’s nineteenth-century Presser v. Illinois decision essentially makes private militias verboten if the State says “No.” The students don’t have a (legal) leg to stand on. The NRA would rather avoid that topic, I think. The “militia movement” is not one that most people want to embrace, since it’s been wrapped by the media in the stink of white supremacy, wild-eyed anarchism, etc., etc.

Students carrying concealed on campus? OK.

Student militia drilling on the quad? Not OK.

My 2¢, YMMV

Presser v. Illinois was the Supreme Court’s 1886 follow-on to their infamous 1875 Cruikshank decision. In Cruikshank the Court declared that the Second Amendment only protected individuals against infringement of the right to arms by Congress – i.e., the federal government. If your STATE wanted to violate your right to arms, the federal government had no power to interfere, said the court, despite ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868. The Presser decision was specifically on the topic of private militias. Illinois had a statute on the books prohibiting private militias. The court upheld that law, using Cruikshank as precedent, and leaving Mike Peters with no legal leg to stand on. Neither case has been overturned or even seriously questioned by a later decision.

And unless the NRA and its spokesmen want to come out in favor of private militias and all the baggage that comes with them, they’re going to avoid this topic like the plague. There is no “good soundbite” that can come from it.

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