There are two words that have the power to strike fear into the heart of most preppers: martial law. The thought of such a condition evokes images of armor clad storm troopers, house to house confiscations, public executions and other flights of fancy. We need to be realistic about the topic of martial law and what it really means. More importantly, we need to be realistic about what martial law means to us, as preppers.
First of all, the basic element of martial law in the United States is the suspension of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus is essentially the due process of law, and therefore, martial law basically means that the due process of law is suspended. What that means in theory is that you can be jailed for something without a trial and all of the rights that the constitution grants under the 5th and 6th amendments, to start with. Additionally, the “martial” in martial law implies military rather than civilian rule, which is another feature of martial law. These are the theories, but in practice, it is much more complicated than that.
Although martial law as enacted by federal powers has in fact been implemented several times in highly controlled and short duration incidents, we don’t really know how nationwide martial law for extended periods of time would be like, and thus most of what we know about martial law is basically conjecture. Long story short – martial law has never been enacted on a federal scale, not even during two world wars. There are several reasons for this:
- Martial law is extremely manpower dependent and while possible to enforce in a city sized territory, it’s almost impossible to enforce on a national scale.
- The American populace is extremely intolerant of the concept of martial law and the idea remains unpopular and repellent to most people.
- There has thus far never been a reason to implement martial law on a national scale.