If you’re under 45, sir, you are a member of the Tennessee militia

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This small fry with his pellet gun will become, on his 18th birthday, a member of the Tennessee militia without having to lift to finger.

By David Tulis

Many of the men whom Sheriff Jim Hammond has invited to be a “conservator of the peace” or member of a “summoning posse” seem past 40 years old. I don’t recognize all the names, but some are local figures of note and long standing. Very likely most of them are friends of Mr. Hammond or people of influence who view the invitation as an honor, a way of assisting Mr. Hammond as a political candidate while bearing a very slight fringe of officiousness.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press worked on Saturday’s story while Mr. Hammond was out of town on vacation, and no doubt Mr. Hammond is rankled by the media-sparked spoilaton of his tranquility. The newspaper’s coverage indicates its editors’ concern that Mr. Hammond may have organized the group under state law (Tennessee Code Annotated 8-8-213) when his purpose is simply honorific, there being no tumult, riot or insurrection to give it an authentic public safety purpose.

A welcoming hand, a phone call or a conversation drew such local notables as Russell Friberg, David Bouler, Bill Knowles and John Germ into the posse. No such personal invite places people such as my eldest son, David, 18, in the Tennessee militia.

State government, long ready for public disorder on a grand scale, has organized its ideas about the matter in the Tennessee code in Title 58. The state’s military hierarchy is divided into three, the army, navy and militia. The army includes the army national guard and the air guard that comprise the Tennessee national guard. A Tennessee Defense Force is separately organized.

Then there stands, in the statute at least, a body of men that no doubt frighten the military-trained people in the national guard, those battle-wizened retirees, Vietnam and Iraq vets and others who have at least gone through regular military training.

That is the hoi polloi, the unwashed commoners — the militia.

The militia shall consist of all able-bodied male citizens who are residents of this state and between eighteen (18) and forty-five (45) years of age and who are not members of the army or navy *** , and who may not otherwise be exempted by the laws of this state or the United States.

In case of invasion, disaster, insurrection, riot, attack or combination to oppose the enforcement of law by force or violence, Gov. Bill Haslam has authority to call up the national guard or the TDF. But the ordering up the militia is not allowed solely on the whim of executive power.

Gov. Haslam would have to be faced with either “rebellion or invasion,” and “then only when the general assembly shall declare by law that the public safety requires” the rousting of the militia.Somehow, the gaggle of teachers, businessmen, workers, factory employees, writers, students, programmers and waiters who are the average civilian guy would have to be shaped for purposes of defense, security, surveillance, rescue.

Organizing the militia would be a gigantic headache for state government. Its members are not trained and would have no coherence or unity, no sense of obedience to orders in a military context. While many Tennessee men own weaponry, they have no experience using them as part of a military conflict or siege. Remembering the bitter fighting of the war to prevent Southern independence, the authors of the law conceive the remote possibility of an emergency so grave as to demand the calling up the militia.

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Sources: “Sheriff has 71 in his posse,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, Beth Burger, May 26, 2012, Page A1
Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 58