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  • Civilian?

    September 20 : 2011
    Editor's Notebook -- Civics 101: Nomenclature
    by Rich Grassi

    With all the sudden growing pains of a re-born gun rights movement, it's inevitable there be some disagreement about the best way to proceed. Old divisions, made the most of by our enemies, seem to open again. All the misunderstandings, prevarications and class warfare rattle forward, never having been far from our consciousness but suppressed until now. This puts us in the unenviable position of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    It's happened before.

    First we have to understand the system under which we live. We can't do that until we arrive at commonly accepted language and the way to do that is through nomenclature. That is a convention for naming things important to our concepts, arguments, and consensus.

    As an example, we have the term "civilian." A widely used term by military assets, used less often (and improperly) by civil government bureaucracies, it's often understood to be perjorative. Nothing can be further from the truth.

    When I was a young G.I. ("government issue," vernacular for "soldier"), many of us longed to be PFCs (Proud Something-or-Other Civilians). It was an achievement, something to strive for. We had short-timers' calendars, some profane, but all leading us to the goal and home.

    A civilian is a person who is not a member of the military service of his or her country. Dictionaries tend to include that the person is not a member of police or fire departments, but that's improper usage. The term comes from international law, the laws of war, and mean "non-military, non-combatant."

    We enforce the distinction in the U.S. with 18USC§1385, a statute known as Posse Comitatus . It places limits on the use of the U.S. Military (originally the Army) to enforce civil laws, conduct searches and seizures or to assist the U.S. Marshal in the enforcement of federal criminal codes on non-federal reservation properties, to wit cities and counties.

    The term Posse Comitatus apparently means "power of the county" - the ability of a sheriff to call up all adult males of a county to assist in putting down an uprising, help capture escaping prisoners, etc.

    The sheriff, an elected official, is placed in office by the electorate - his constituents - not by federal or military mandates. The sheriff is beholding to the people who elected him and to the people who come to be in his county. In some states, the sheriff is constitutionally held to be the chief law enforcement officer of his county, serving as the action arm of the courts.

    The sheriff is, therefore, a civilian. I've been a civilian continuously since 1975. I've been a citizen of the United States all my life. For a small part of that time, I was not a civilian.

    It was the source of amusement to hear fellow law enforcement officers talk about civilians as if they were any different from us. When "shall issue" concealed carry was being debated locally, I was asked what I thought about civilians carrying guns.

    "What's the difference," I asked. "I do it all the time." See, I was a citizen that had a background check and some training - exactly what was required to get a permit!

    If I was a permit holder in Kansas and I wanted to go to Utah - assuming there is reciprocity - I'm okay to carry in Utah, subject to Utah rules for their permit holders. If I'm active duty law enforcement in Kansas and I want to go to Utah, I'm okay to carry . . . subject to Utah rules for their permit holders.

    Soon, I'll be getting my concealed carry permit as a retired peace officer. The difference? The cost to do the background investigation is a little less since the hardest part was already done before I was hired.

    Civilian: any person not a military service member; non-combatant.

    Citizen: an inhabitant of a nation; one entitled to the rights and privileges of a citizen (e.g., voting) due to status as native-born or through naturalization.

    --- Rich Grassi

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    This article was originally published in forum thread: Civilian? started by Decline View original post
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Rossi's Avatar
      Rossi -
      I'm a little late to the party. A well layed out piece. Let me think on it and I'll see you later.


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