What Would Martial Law Look Like In The United States?

In light of recent events, such as the Paris riots, the illegal immigration crisis on the border, attempted coups in Turkey, and tensions heating up between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, history has a startling way of repeating itself.


Though, thankfully, most people reading this have never experienced how chaotic the world can truly be. Sure there are always exceptions to the rule, but it does leave the startling notion “what would living under martial law be like in the United States?” bouncing around in the back of your mind.


So to remedy this, let’s take a look at the stark, menacing, thought experiment of what living under the rule of martial law would be like.

What Is Martial Law?


So, what exactly is martial law? In the United States martial law is defined as the suspension of habeas corpus and the military replaces the current standing government. When martial law occurs, the highest ranking military official usurps the current head of state as commander in chief and has total power over the judiciary system, law enforcement, and even the constitution.


During martial law, all individual citizens rights and freedoms, even the Constitution, will be suspended. Thankfully, this has only happened once in the United States, enacted by President Abraham Lincoln, but there are a number of occurrences where martial law has been enacted in both state and local levels, such as the aftermath of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and in the aftermath of several natural disasters.


But, now, let’s take it a step further and delve into a hypothetical reality of what life would be like under total martial law enacted by the U.S. Federal Government that would affect the entire nation.


Living Under A Iron Fist


Martial law is generally enacted as a last resort, as a direct result of a catastrophic attack, event, or in instances of extreme corruption. Through out history, martial law has been used to maintain order and restore peace, but there are also many times when the exact opposite occurs, say during a coup d’etat, and a violent and brutal police state is installed instead of a democratic system of government or republic being upheld.


In the US, freedom is something that was once earned, but now, it feels as if it’s something most folks take for granted. Say one day you wake up and turn on the news and see that the country is under attack or a violent coup has erupted, almost immediately, the military would be mobilized, control of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies would be passed on to the military, and individual rights and freedoms would be immediately suspended.


The land of the free would become the land of the oppressed in a matter of minutes, hours, or days.


The right to bear arms, freedom of speech, protection from warrantless search and seizure, and realistically any other freedom and right we take for granted would be gone, because each would be a threat to the controlling government.


Several of those rights may even be suspended regardless of whether martial law is officially declared or not. For instance, even though martial law was not officially declared after Hurricane Katrina, the right to bear arms was confiscated and law enforcement units when door to door seizing firearms.


While you could take steps to hide as many of your guns as you can, and you could get creative with how you hide them or use gun safes designed for the task, if the authorities have any proof that you own any specific firearms, you’ll have to give them up or else risk likely arrest.


Theoretically, the probability is high that many citizens would view this as the systematic oppression that our forefathers spoke of and would not take it lightly. Since the inception of the U.S. government, individual freedoms and the right for self defense against tyranny has been one of the core tenets patriotic Americans abide by; and statistics show there are about one firearm to every one person in America, so the possibility of an armed uprising is very possible.

But if civil war were to break out, the odds are it would be fairly short due to the fact that many serviceman wouldn’t view it as right or just and would either defect or refuse orders that would be detrimental to the nation they swore to protect; or then again, it could be a long drawn out conflict that brings the nation to it’s knees.


If civil war were avoided, existence would be bleak. Individuality would dissolve and a society that once embraced uniqueness would become a borderline utopian/dystopian reality where everyone is expected to conform to the rule of law and contribute, or face the consequences.


Keep in mind that due process and other legal protections would be gone, so you could be arrested, have your property searched and seized, or even charged and punished for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Martial Law For Order


Say martial law is enacted but with the best interest of the people in mind. Life may not seem entirely different other than the presence of military personnel, which is illegal under the Posse Comitatus Act unless extreme measures are required. Curfews would be set in place to keep people out of the streets due to unforeseen danger or security reasons and checkpoints and identity checks would be implemented for searching for enemies of the state.


Seems a little extreme, but in legitimate times of crisis, these measures are put into place to preserve life and in defense of the stability of the government and the nation itself, as long as its not a coup launched by the standing military in the first place, otherwise, see the previous paragraph.

Is Martial Law Possible?


Though it may seem like the world is a powder keg on the verge of being lit, some experts say this era is one of the most peaceful in human history; but anything is possible when the right kind of flame is present that can light the fuse.


Although not likely due to the extreme circumstances martial law would require, it’s certainly possible. All it would take is a well coordinated attack to an aging infrastructure, a leader with ill intent, or extreme economic and civil discord.


Though it’s a scary notion to take in, keep in mind that the United States is a proud nation and in times of crisis, citizens come together and endure. It is said that attacking the U.S. would fail due to the fact there is an American with a rifle behind every blade of grass, this is no secret and anyone one who wishes ill intent knows it.  

3 Replies to “What Would Martial Law Look Like In The United States?

  1. BTW, and I hope we do not drag this too long, but care to remind us just what kind of weapons were being used on Kurds by Saddams army? To the tune of hundreds of thousands of dead Talk about re-written history

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