“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that it wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.”
“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is a natural manure.”
Thomas Jefferson again!
Any question as to how our founding fathers (one of them at least!) felt about the issue of armed rebellion? We have to consider their recent experiences in that matter when we evaluate such comments, but it is fairly clear that despite their then recent success in that area the prevailing opinion was not that the problem of tyranny had been solved forever and always.
So, the fact that some of us believe there may come a time when such actions are required again is not an unpatriotic notion. In fact, acts of sedition are not an affront to our nation’s roots, but a tribute to them. So, in order to not give anyone the impression that I am mealy on the subject let me state definitively right now that I am of the opinion that at some point we will arrive at a time when a Second Amendment solution is required to solve a Tenth Amendment problem. But we are not there yet, and how close we are to that is subject to a lot more debate than I care to enter into at the moment.
But what has any of this got to do with anything? Let’s look for a minute at recent events in Oregon. A handful of ranchers and self styled Militia men have taken over an unoccupied Nature Center on Federal Lands. They’ve held the building for the better part of a month now. They’re objective is… well it’s been pretty unclear. They have been fairly unable to articulate a valid platform based on constitutional principles, although they have certainly managed to use the word Constitution a lot.
Regardless of what they think they are up to, here is a very brief synopsis of the events that led up to all this. A father and son Ranching team, Dwight and Steven Hammond, who lease grazing land from the BLM, lit some fires on Federal lands some time back. There is speculation that the first incident was undertaken to cover up some poaching activities. The second fire was apparently a controlled burn started to control invasive plant species and protect the grazing quality of the land. The circumstances of the fires are irrelevant to the criminal charges that were brought against the Hammonds. Ultimately, they were convicted.
Sentencing guidelines called for a five year prison term. However, the Federal Judge that tried the case was apparently sympathetic to the circumstances of the Hammonds (and rightfully so in my opinion, especially in the second fire where destruction was neither the goal nor the result), and handed down sentences of 3 months and 1 year. The Hammonds served their time, and were released in accordance with their sentencing.
Now we arrive at a valid constitutional point, and one which the “Militia” men pretty much failed to address. An overzealous Federal Prosecutor decided that he was not happy with the judges sentencing practices in this case. He took it upon himself to take the cases to a court of appeals and press for the 5 year prison terms he felt were in order. He won in this court, the Hammonds were ordered to return to prison to finish out the remainder of the 5 years.
Why is this a constitutional issue? In my estimation, it violates both the double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment clauses. These men were tried, convicted, sentenced, and lived up to every stipulation of their punishment. They were free men, debts to society paid, when this yahoo prosecutor decides that’s not enough and runs them through the whole thing again, and gets them sent up for a lot more time. Mr. Prosecutor, if you don’t like that judges decisions, go after the judge, those men didn’t make that decision and did what they were supposed to do, let them be.
Enter the Militia goofs. Led by the Bundy sons, of Bundy Ranch Standoff infamy, these guys want to make this into another BLM bashing adventure, when the case in point had little to do with the BLM except for the fact that the fires were set on BLM lands. OK guys, you had a valid constitutional protest on your hands, in the form of an overreaching Prosecutor and a complicit court of appeals, why couldn’t you run with that one? And, dare I ask, Was this a grab your guns and fight Tyranny level event? Absolutely not!
So, almost a month into the deal a couple of the leaders of the group have managed to get themselves shot by Feds and the Oregon State Police. One of them is dead. The FBI has released video of the shooting, and I’ll be honest with you from this one bit of film it’s a little hard to tell if it was a righteous shooting or not. But, to an agent on the ground I know things probably looked a lot different. Bottom line is, these protesters took guns to their party, said they weren’t afraid to use them, and didn’t play completely nice. Sometimes when you do things like that you get shot. Thomas Jefferson knew that!
Take home message? Pick your fights and know the rules (like the one about you might get shot!). I am a gun guy. I am a staunch supporter of the constitution. I believe in the Second Amendment, including our founders concept of Militia (In their view, EVERYONE is the Militia!). I believe in the concept of the Second Amendment Solution to Tenth Amendment problems. I also believe that the bunch in Oregon should be put in a home for the criminally stupid. Pick your fights wisely! Base them on the Constitutional Principles that justify the actions! Stop making the rest of the armed Right look ridiculous, we don’t need it, we already have the Republican establishment to do that for us!
Rant over, Pat out!