A City Where All Teens Would Be Forced to Carry Loaded AR-15s

Gun enthusiasts want to build it in the mountains of Idaho. They've already drawn up plans and are taking applications.

Imagine that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg built a private city of his own design, where prospective residents would agree in advance to certain heavy-handed rules governing how they should live. Recycling and aerobic exercise would be mandatory. Trans-fats, salt, and soda would be banned. And folks making below a certain income would submit to being stopped and searched on the street. That city wouldn't appeal to me, and I wouldn't advise anyone I knew to make it home. But so long as its residents moved voluntarily and could leave as they pleased?

I'd uneasily wish them luck.

That's sort of the way I feel about The Citadel, "a small planned community of 3,500-7,000 families of patriotic Americans" being planned in the Idaho mountains. In nudist colonies, no one wears clothes. The Amish foreswear modern technology, among other beliefs. The folks planning The Citadel say they're ordering their community around the concept of "rightful liberty," as articulated by Thomas Jefferson: "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others." But the Citadel Patriot Arrangement, the "voluntary set of conditions to which every single Patriot who accepts a residence in the Citadel must agree," suggests that gun ownership and proficiency are paramount.

the citadel full.png

Just look at all the rules that relate to firearms:

  • Everyone 13 years and older "shall annually demonstrate proficiency with the rifle of his/her choice by hitting a man-sized steel target at 100 yards with open sights at the Citadel range."
  • They must also "annually demonstrate proficiency with a handgun of choice by hitting a man-sized steel target at 25 yards with open sights at the Citadel range."
  • "Every able-bodied Patriot of age within the Citadel will maintain one AR15 variant in 5.56mm NATO, at least 5 magazines and 1,000 rounds of ammunition." An individual mandate!
  • "Every child attending Citadel schools -- with parental discretion for maturity -- shall have as part of every semester's class curriculum basic marksmanship and firearms safety training leading to the proficiency test on the child's 13th birthday as a 'Coming of Age' rite of passage."
  • "All Patriots, who are of age and are not legally restricted from bearing firearms, shall agree to remain armed with a loaded sidearm whenever visiting the Citadel Town Center. Firearm shall be on-the-person and under the control of the Resident, not merely stored in a vehicle."

I am glad I live in a country where people who want to live under rules like this are free to buy between 2,000 and 3,000 acres of private land, enclose 640 of those acres behind walls and towers, and pursue their heavily fortified version of happiness. Along with the rules related to guns, there would be mandatory participation in a militia for defensive purposes, biannual town defense drills, and a mandate that every household "remain stocked with sufficient food, water, and other preparedness essentials to sustain ... every member of the household for one year."

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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