I think Stace Nelson is trying to draft me.
Senator Stace Nelson has a puzzler in the Legislative hopper. His Senate Joint Resolution 2 would ask us voters to change our constitutional definition of “militia”.
Article 15 Section 1 currently says the state militia “shall consist of all able-bodied male persons residing in the state, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, except such persons as now are, or hereafter may be, exempted by the laws of the United States or of this state.” SJR 2 would change Article 15 Section 1 to include “any adult able-bodied person residing in the state….”
I passed 45 a couple years ago. So SJR 2 could be Stace’s sneaky way to dragoon me into the militia and keep me from blogging.
Then again, Stace is four years older than I am. So maybe the old Marine just got to feeling misty when he realized our constitution bans him from answering the Governor’s call to repel an invasion from Nebraska.
Under statute (SDCL 33-2-2), the militia consists of the National Guard and the unorganized militia. That statute subjects both wings to the Department of Defense age limits, and DoD says folks who haven’t served can enlist in the National Guard only between ages 17 and 35. The state constitution can’t trump federal rules, so I assume SJR 2 would require some rewording of SDCL 33-2-2 to allow all us older folks to join the unorganized militia (and if I have to serve, I want to be in a group officially designated “unorganized”).
We could praise Senator Nelson for his progressive-minded effort to eliminate obsolete sexist and ageist language from our constitution. But since Senator Nelson is such a rock-ribbed conservative, I have to put on my conservative helmet and ask, Is SJR 2 necessary? If Nebraskans or Martians (what if our “die on Mars” ads worked?) do invade, would our current constitutional language really prevent me and even greyer South Dakotans from taking up arms to repel our oppressors? And is it really conservative for Senator Nelson to propose a constitutional amendment that could deny more citizens their liberty and compel them into service of the collective?
Senator Nelson will deny this, but I have to wonder if SJR 2 isn’t really some sneaky reinforcement of the Second Amendment. Our right to bear arms revolves around the necessity of a “well regulated Militia“. Our current constitutional language defining the militia as only healthy men age 18 to 45 could be read to limit the right to bear arms to the narrow class of potential crisis young-dude soldiers. Redefine “militia” to mean any adult who can toss a rock at invaders, and it’s easier to argue that everyone should be packing heat. Pass SJR 2, and in 2019, Senator Nelson will be introducing resolutions authorizing militia presence to protect vital public institutions like universities, courthouses, and the Legislature.
Senator Nelson recruited a lot of the banger-gang (DiSanto, Goodwin, Dennert, Kaiser, Netherton, Phil Jensen…) to co-sponsor this odd little amendment. And maybe he’ll even get Speaker Mickelson and the mainstreamers to support it: after all, cluttering the ballot with another trivial constitutional amendment would reinforce Mickelson’s effort to say we have too many ballot measures and thus drive down public enthusiasm for initiative and referendum.
The Senate referred SJR 2 to Senate State Affairs, on which two co-sponsors, Maher and Netherton, sit. No hearing date has been scheduled.