Few people, both preppers and non-preppers, are anywhere near prepared for what would happen if the government were to ever declare martial law.

Martial law is simply defined as the imposition of direct military control over a country, state, city, or other defined area, and involving the suspension of normal law.

A wide variety of things can trigger martial law to be declared, including but not limited to:

  • Broken Down Civilian Government
  • Terrorist Attack
  • Enemy Invasion
  • Coup D’Etat
  • Natural Disaster
  • Insurrections
  • Massive Riots and/or Disobedience of the Law

Martial law has been declared in the United States before.  Most notably in more recent memory, ‘virtual martial law’ was declared in response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005.  The term ‘virtual’ martial law is used here because the term ‘martial law’ does not exist in Louisiana law, but nonetheless, a state of emergency was declared and many elements of martial law were put into place.

That being said, martial law has also been officially called throughout United States history, such as in 1941 in Hawaii in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor and in San Francisco in 1934 in response to a massive workers’ strike and subsequent rioting.

Regardless of what causes it to happen, here is what you can reasonably expect to happen under martial law whether it happens on a local, statewide, or Federal basis:

Suspension of Rights

First and foremost, declared martial law will almost certainly result in the suspension of rights. This means that the United States Constitution would be suspended, and along with it, so would the rights to free speech and freedom of the press, to keep and bear arms, to a fair and speedy trial, and everything else.

In fact, even the right to own property will be suspended, and anything and everything you own can become seized by the government (more on this in a bit).

Since rights (or at least most rights) will have been suspended, you can guarantee the military and law enforcement units in control will be making arrests left and right.  Literally everyone will be treated as a suspect, and simply being seen talking with the wrong person or making a bad gesture could land you in heaps amounts of trouble.

You can also expect to hear propaganda from the forces in control, and lots of it.  Since free speech and freedom of the press will be suspended, the authorities will instead be broadcasting out propaganda messages in a further attempt to control and influence the population.

Military Enforced Curfews


The next thing you can expect to have happen under martial law is a military-enforced curfew.  Checkpoints will be set up at all streets and corners, and roads, bridges, and tunnels leading outside of the city will be blocked so that no one can get in or out without express permission of the authorities who are in control.  

Life as you know it is simply going to completely shut down as your city will come to resemble a war zone more than the peaceful and idyllic life you once knew.  Schools, banks, and businesses may also become shut down as part of the military/law enforcement effort to completely control the population.

Confiscation of Firearms

Here’s something else you can be absolutely sure will happen under martial law: the forceful and mandatory confiscation of firearms.  In a martial law situation, the government will simply never be in complete control so long as there is a heavily armed civilian population, which is why they will move quickly to confiscate as many guns as they can.  

This is one example of what happened in the virtual martial law situation of Hurricane Katrina when law enforcement and National Guard units went door-to-door forcefully confiscating firearms of literally all types: semi-automatics rifles, hunting rifles, shotguns, handguns, single shots, you name it.  

You can try to hide your guns as best you can such as in gun safes that are designed for the purpose, but if the government shows evidence that they know you own certain guns, you may be arrested if you resist.

Confiscation of Food and Supplies

Guns may be the first thing the authorities move to confiscate under martial law, but they will be far from the only thing.

Don’t be surprised if the authorities also move to confiscate food, water, first aid and medicine, and other essential supplies. In fact, electricity and running water may even be shut off.

Why would the government seek to confiscate these things that people need to survive? Simple: control. Without food and water, the population would become completely dependent on the authorities for survival.

Long lines for food, water, and medicine would soon develop, and the government would also seek to ration everything as tightly as possible in order to truly control people. The days of you going to the grocery store to get what you need would come to an end, as instead, you’d need to stand in long lines just for a day’s meal.

Increased Crime

The final thing that you can be guaranteed of in martial law will be chaos.  You see, no matter how hard the authorities try to impose strict order, people are going to turn desperate and that means that they will be turning to crime to get what they need.

In other words, even after rioting has been put down by the government, you can still expect armed marauders and looters to be taking to the streets and prowling on the innocent, and in much greater frequency than you may expect.

What’s worse, is that if all of your firearms and weaponry happen to be confiscated, you’ll have very limited means by which to defend yourself. The best thing you can do to protect yourself against this kind of crime will be to board up your doors and windows and to be prepared to defend yourself and your family with whatever defensive weaponry you have available on hand.  

Working in coordination with your neighbors to protect one another against outside threats (rather than risking the possibility of coming into conflict with your neighbors) will also be very wise.


Martial law is not going to be easy to get through, but it’s important to remember that it’s only temporary and one of the best things you can do to prepare for it is to know what to expect. Now that you’ve read this article, you should at least have a much better idea of what martial law will entail for you.

You may also enjoy our How to Debate Gun Control and Automatic Weapons Overview 

* This guest post is brought to you by our friend Sam Bocetta *

Sam Bocetta is a freelance journalist specializing in U.S. diplomacy and national security, with emphases on technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense, and cryptography. Sam is now semi-retired and educates the public about security and privacy technology. He is currently working as a part-time cybersecurity coordinator at assignyourwriter.co.uk

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

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  1. Where do you get the information to base this wild scenario on? The military and local law enforcement will be so organized as to confiscate firearms and all your resources, then suddenly become so disorganized as to not be able to control roving bands of marauders? Please….

  2. The video in this article begs the question: If you have an opportunity to shoot those trying to illegally confiscate your guns and get away. What would happen after Martial Law was rescinded?

    1. It’s a terrifying scenario to ponder and one that probably has no definitive answer – but it’s crucial that we consider these things nevertheless.

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