Practicing What I Preach: Now I KNOW about the Dick Act of 1902

A few days ago I wrote about trying to figure out why people believe the things they do in the face of what I consider to be overwhelming evidence to the contrary. A few days prior to that I had written about the Constitution and asked what exactly we were protecting. The perfect opportunity to put into practice what I preached in the former article came up when someone commented on the latter.

The gist of the February 1st post was to say that we come to “know” something once we stop investigating it. I had recalled a quote printed many years ago by Chicago newspaper columnist Sydney Harris who said “The facts begin when the investigation ends.”

So the following comment was posted by a reader to the Constitution article. I’m including it here in its entirety. If you want to follow the whole conversation, you can read it here. (link)

I think you are onto something…”interpret it as it was written”…Now there’s a thought. As far as letting our citizens have as many muskets as they want (assult weapons); well this is and will remain the law of the land.
The Dick Act of 1902, also known as the Efficiency of Militia Bill H.R. 11654, of June 28, 1902. Invalidates all gun-control laws. It also divides the militia into three distinct and separate entities.
The three classes H.R. 11654 provides for are the organized militia, henceforth known as the National Guard of the State, Territory and District of Columbia; the unorganized militia; and the regular army.
The unorganized militia encompasses every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 45. All members of the unorganized militia have the absolute personal right and 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms of any type, and as many as they can afford to buy.
It’s the law.
Molon Labe.

(In case you’re unaware…and I wasn’t until I looked it up…”Molon Labe” are alleged to be the words of King Leonidas in a response to a Persian request that the Spartans surrender their weapons. It translates to “Come and take.” I assume the writer of the above post equates attempts to find reasonable gun control among Americans to the invading armies of Persia. I’ll let you decided how valid that comparison might be.)

What caught my eye in this post was the reference to the Dick Act of 1902. If I ever had any knowledge of this legislation, it had long escaped me, probably in favor of something I could talk about in school without 17-year olds busting out laughing. So rather than accept the reader’s analysis, I decided to check it out.

When I entered “Dick Act of 1902” in my search engine, pages and pages popped up all using essentially the same information as listed above. One quick look at the websites made it pretty clear that all of these sites are anti-gun control sites and they were all using the exact same story to make their point that ANY gun control is illegal. My antennae were up. I’ve seen this many times on both sides of issues. Websites and blogs grab information that supports their point of view and post it without really checking it out. So is it fact or did I need to do more investigation?

I went to the US Congress site and attempted to find the actual bill. It’s a lot harder than you think to find the text of legislation from over 100 years ago. I did learn right away, however, that the Dick Act is a nickname for the “Efficiency of Militia Act” which was passed in 1903, not 1902. The nickname comes from a general of the time who was very active in supporting the act. But I could not find the text on the official Congressional site. Other searches of sites purporting to have full text of things like this, only had legislative citations but no text.

I truly was getting intrigued. If this legislation was really this important in the gun-control debate, why wasn’t it easier to find? I prevailed upon a lawyer friend of mine with access to Lexus (a high priced legal database) and she was able to get me the act and the two amendments that were passed in 1908 and 1909.

The entire Efficiency of Militia Act is less than six pages long. The primary function of the Act is specified in Sec 4: “That whenever the United States is invaded, or in danger of invasion from any foreign nation, or of rebellion against the authority of the Government of the United States, or the President is unable with the other forces at his command to execute the lasws of the Union in any part thereof, it shall be lawful for the President to call forth, for a period not exceeding nine months, such number of the militia of the State or of the States or Territories or the District of Columbia as he may deem necessary to repel such invasion, suppress such rebellion, or to enable him to execute such laws, and to issue his orders for that purpose to such officers of the militia as he may think proper.”

Other sections of the Act lay out disciplinary action if any member of the militia refuses to serve, how ammunition and weapons will be paid for, how much and where training will occur, and how the hierarchy of command will be established. It also says in Sec 1: “That the militia shall consist of every able-bodied male citizen of the respective States…who is more than eighteen years and less than forty-five years of age and shall be divided into two classes – the organized militia to be known as the National Guard of the State…and the remainder to be known as the Reserve Militia.”

So let me pause here and compare what the Act really says to what my reader and countless websites claim it says.

1) The Act specifies two divisions of the militia, not three as claimed by the reader.
2) The Act never mentions the Second Amendment.
3) The Act never says anything about anyone being entitled to own any weapons.
4) The Act actually authorizes the President to use the militia to put down any insurrections such as those threatened by many gun advocates. Yes, there are people who believe that if the government decided to ban certain weapons, that they would revolt against the government. If that were to happen, the National Guard and the reserve militia could be employed to put such an insurrection down.
5) The Act does not presume that any member of either militia already owns weapons. It provides for the government to either supply weapons or to pay people for the use of theirs.

So my reader got exactly one thing right about the Dick Act of 1902 and only loosely so. That was a definition of who could be called into the militia if the nation was under threat. That’s it. There are no gun control prohibitions. There are not three branches of the militia. The Act does not even specify the difference between the National Guard and the Reserve Militia. It simply says these two types of militia exist.

You can read the entire act for yourself here

For me the investigation has ended, and it’s a fact that the Expedited Militia Act is not ammunition for anyone who opposes gun control. Now I’m left to wonder if people who read this will do the responsible thing and inform the hundreds of websites who are printing lies and calling it good that they should pull down references to the Dick Act. Care to vote?



2 Comments on “Practicing What I Preach: Now I KNOW about the Dick Act of 1902”

  1. thomas June 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Your article is only partially written and seems a little disingenuous in that you were willing to put the entire conversation between you and some reader that cited the Dick Act of 1902, yet you only put up minimum information from the real bill which you found through your lawyer friend. Where’s the link to that?? Or why didn’t you put up all the text of the bill?? Don’t leave us hangin’ here….do your job!!!

    • Mark Pontoni June 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

      Sorry for not completing that post.

      Here’s the link and it’s in the post now as well.

      The Dick Act

      Thanks for reminding me.

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