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Last thing anyone wants is to make Mr. Bundy a far-right martyr

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

Nevada Rancher Clive Bundy has become a "hero" and a "patriot" to many on the far right. In reality, he is neither. He is a lawbreaker with a "fringe" agenda.

Mr. Bundy is not in trouble for grazing his cattle on his own property. He is in trouble because for two decades, he refused to pay fees for grazing them on public land. Mr. Bundy does not recognize the right of the federal government to own and regulate land, but the Constitution does give it that right. It also has the right to ask for fees and fines if the fees are not paid. After all, it is public land that actually belongs to all of us.

Many ranchers have used public land for grazing and have had no problem complying with the law. But, Mr. Bundy decided to thumb his nose at the law and that is why authorities sought to confiscate his cattle. He has lost his cases in the federal court and has been given many opportunities to pay the fees.

People who ignore court decisions and the law often face sanctions. Mr. Bundy's case is no different. It is really no different than if I go camping in a national park and have to pay a camping fee. That is quite reasonable. Do I have a right to demand that the park rangers give me a campsite for free at the point of a gun? I don't think so.

The "militia" members who showed up to intimidate law enforcement are also lawbreakers. The Constitution does speak of militias, but our Founders envisioned a "well-regulated" militia. A well-regulated militia is one that is established lawfully, is subject to a legitimate chain of command, and is subject to legitimate civilian authority including a state governor and ultimately, if called into national service, the President of the United States. Today, we call these state militias National Guards.

A well-regulated militia is not a bunch of extremist adults that never got over "playing army" as kids who run around with weapons threatening law enforcement. While many of these "militia" groups (and other extreme conservatives) accuse the president (or anyone else with whom they disagree) of "treason," groups that arm themselves to fight a legitimate government are coming mighty close to the Constitutional definition of treason themselves.

Is armed insurrection ever justified? Perhaps it is in countries where people have no legal, legitimate, and non-violent avenue for change. But, in the USA, we can still vote and our courts are still operational. There are still plenty of non-violent alternatives to affect change in our country. Even in America, civil disobedience is sometimes justified, but never violent insurrection. In Mr. Bundy's case, he is not challenging an unjust law but a reasonable one that most comply with.

Mr. Bundy's supporters are calling this a victory and gloating that the authorities "backed down." No, they did not back down. They should be praised for exercising restraint in a potentially violent situation.

The last thing anyone wants is for Mr. Bundy or his supporters to become martyrs of the far right. At the proper time and place, when his "militia" supporters are not around, he will be arrested for his actions along with others who participated in this standoff and have his day in court. The courts will give Mr. Bundy and his supporters due process even though they do not recognize the legitimacy of the courts.

E. Scott Cracraft