Can Your Town Ban the Military from Recruiting Anyone Under 18?

By David Swanson

Of course, Americans must be 18 to serve in the military, but much of the military’s recruiting work is directed at those who have not yet turned 18.

According to Dave Meserve in Arcata, Calif., localities can avoid the consequences of the No Child Left Behind law (which turns students’ names and contact information over to recruiters) not only by helping students and parents to opt out of recruitment lists or by challenging the ability of recruiters to be on school campuses, but also by prohibiting any recruiting activities that involve kids under 18.

Meserve has drafted an ordinance and submitted it to the city clerk and the city attorney in Arcata. They will have 15 days to review it and provide a title and ballot summary for the November 2008 ballot. Then Meserve can begin gathering signatures to get it on the ballot.

Why not do the same thing in your town or major city? Here’s the draft ordinance:

ARCATA YOUTH PROTECTION ACT

AN ORDINANCE TO PROHIBIT THE MILITARY RECRUITMENT OF ANY PERSON UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN

To protect the welfare of our youth, the People of Arcata Ordain as Follows:
No person who is employed by or an agent of the United States government shall, within the City of Arcata, in the execution of his or her job duties, recruit, initiate contact with for the purpose of recruiting, or promote the future enlistment of any person under the age of eighteen into any branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Authority:
This Ordinance is adopted and enacted pursuant to the authority guaranteed to the people of Arcata by the California Constitution (Article 2, Section1) and the U.S. Constitution (Amendments IX and X) which guarantee political power to the people and recognize the right to exercise that power through initiative and referendum (California Constitution Article 4, Section I).

Findings

1) Military Recruiters Target Teens.
Military recruiters target teens through ad campaigns, mailings, telephone calls, email, and direct personal contact. They promote enlistment by glorifying military service and exaggerating the educational and career benefits, while ignoring the dangers. Recruiters are rewarded for meeting enlistment quotas and risk reassignment if quotas are not met. College and business recruiters lack equivalent resources and incentives to promote non-military careers to teens.

2) People under the age of eighteen are not permitted to vote.
As a society, we believe that people under eighteen lack the life experience to make informed choices; they cannot vote, sign contracts, or make medical and other legal decisions. Although people under eighteen cannot enlist in the military without parental consent, sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in our community are routinely urged by recruiters to commit themselves to future enlistment after their eighteenth birthdays. Those who do enlist in the military may be ordered to participate in actions that violate Constitutional and International Law including bombings of civilian targets, invasions and occupations of sovereign nations, or illegal detention and mistreatment of suspected terrorists. Young soldiers risk their lives and sanity without a developed ability to comprehend the consequences of their actions. Unlike civilian employees, military enlistees may be prosecuted and imprisoned if they refuse to obey an order, or if they change their minds and want to quit their jobs in the military. If we believe that people under the age of eighteen lack the experience and maturity necessary for voting, then they should not be subjected to the highly sophisticated and well-funded efforts of military recruiters to enlist them in the armed forces.

3) The First Amendment protects the free speech of people, not the government.
While some may argue that recruiting is “speech” protected by the First Amendment, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of people from the excesses of government.

4) This Ordinance does not violate provisions of No Child Left Behind.

The No Child Left Behind Act (PL 117-110, Section 9528.3) mandates that: “Each local educational agency receiving assistance under this Act shall provide military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as is provided generally to post secondary educational institutions or to prospective employers of those students.” This Ordinance is to be approved by the voters, not by any local educational agency. Under the Ordinance, schools may still provide access to military recruiters, but recruiters are prohibited from recruiting or promoting the future enlistment of any person under the age of eighteen.

Specific Purpose:
The specific purpose of this Ordinance is to protect youth under the age of eighteen from military recruiting.

Statement of Law:
No person who is employed by or an agent of the United States government shall, within the City of Arcata, in the execution of his or her job duties, recruit, initiate contact with for the purpose of recruiting, or promote the future enlistment of any person under the age of eighteen into any branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Nothing in this Ordinance shall prevent any person from voluntarily visiting a military recruitment office or specifically initiating a request to meet with a recruiter.

Nothing in this Ordinance shall prevent individuals who are not employed by or agents of the U.S. government from encouraging people under the age of eighteen to join the military.

Enforcement
The City of Arcata shall inform all local military recruiters and their commanding officers of this Ordinance, which prohibits military recruiting of any person under the age of eighteen within the City of Arcata. Any military recruiter who violates this Ordinance, as well as his or her commanding officer, shall be held responsible for said violation. Both shall be deemed guilty of an infraction and shall be subject to the penalties stated in the Arcata Municipal Code. (A.M.C. I-3-1200) A citizen complaint of any unsolicited military recruiting activity involving people under the age of eighteen shall initiate investigation and possible citation by the Arcata Police Department for violation of this Ordinance. If recruiters violate this Ordinance five or more times within one month, military recruiting of persons under the age of eighteen shall be deemed a public nuisance and shall be summarily abated.
(A.M.C. I-3-1201)

Severability
The provisions of this Ordinance are severable. If any section or provision of this Ordinance is determined to be illegal, invalid or unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, such decision of the court shall not affect or invalidate any of the remaining sections or provisions of this Ordinance. It is the express intent of the people of Arcata, California that this Ordinance would have been adopted if such illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional section or provision had not been included.

Effective Date
This Ordinance shall take effect thirty (30) days after adoption by the voters.

Interpretation
In the event this Ordinance requires interpretation (by courts, county officials, or anyone else), it is the express intent of the people of Arcata that this Ordinance be construed in such a manner to carry out the original intent of this Initiative, which is to prohibit military recruitment of any person under the age of eighteen within the City of Arcata.

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