Ely editorial: Time to stop treating citizens like enemy combatants

Reid and Heller on television. (R-J photo by Jerry Henkel)

Nevada’s U.S. senators appeared together on a Las Vegas television station a week ago and offered divergent opinions on the character and motives of the citizens who showed up at Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch to exercise their First and Second amendment rights.

Democratic Sen. Harry Reid labeled them “domestic terrorists.”

Republican Sen. Dean Heller called them “patriots.”

To us it matters less what you call the citizens on hand to protest the Bureau of Land Management attempt to confiscate several hundred head of Bundy’s free-range cattle, than what you call the unmitigated show of militaristic force displayed by the estimated 200 heavily armed federal agents on the ground and in the air and lying prone atop hills with sniper rifles aimed, as stated in an Ely Times editorial.

The operation was scrubbed and the cattle already rounded up were released on April 12 when a tense standoff between the federal agents and the armed civilians threatened to explode into a massacre.

In one televised exchange, Heller, sitting next to Reid said, “I have a very different view. … What Senator Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots.”

Reid replied, “If they’re patriots, we’re in very big trouble.”

If this is how the federal government enforces civil laws, we are in very big trouble.

In a 2008 campaign speech, then-Sen. Barack Obama deviated from his teleprompter and told a Colorado audience, “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” And apparently as well armed.

In recent years police departments across the country have beefed up their SWAT teams, purchasing large-caliber weapons, body armor and armored personnel carriers. Instead of knocking on a door to serve a search warrant on a petty drug suspect, the standard operating procedure is to break down the door with a battering ram, guns drawn, cocked and at ready. The carnage has been well documented — including a 92-year-old woman shot to death by Atlanta police when they broke through the wrong door.

Federal agencies are soldiering up, too.

As Investor’s Business Daily editorialists recently pointed out, BLM is not the only federal agency with a private army.

This past summer Environmental Protection Agency agents invaded a gold mine in Alaska in search of violations of the Clean Water Act. They wore body armor and carried assault weapons.

Other federal agencies so armed include the Library of Congress, the Federal Reserve Board, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Yes, even NOAA, whose job it is to forecast the weather — apparently to fend off militant climate change deniers.

When Gen. Thomas Gage was ordered to confiscate the colonists’ powder, shot and cannon stored in Concord, he sent hundreds of heavily armed Redcoats. They were confronted on April 19, 1775, by armed British citizens — call them domestic terrorists or patriots if you like. To this day, no one knows for sure who fired the first shot. It might have even been an accidental discharge.

The BLM turned a simple law enforcement operation into an invasion and thus escalated the situation perilously close to wanton bloodshed.

Heller is calling for congressional hearings into why the BLM acted like an invading army in our own country, treating citizens like enemy combatants. It is time for our government agents to stand down and treat people like fellow citizens — before we experience another Branch Davidian slaughter or Ruby Ridge sniper assassination.

31 comments on “Ely editorial: Time to stop treating citizens like enemy combatants

  1. Vernon Clayson says:

    Harry Reid saying “If they’re patriots we’re in very big trouble” indicates his total disassociation with the American people, including Nevada citizens, in his view “we’re” obviously means the government, not the citizenry. Is there anything a Republican can say that he doesn’t have a sarcastic response for? If Heller had said that Cliven Bundy is merely a high plains cowboy ill-equipped to handle national news media Harry would disagree, probably to say that Bundy is crafty and playing the cowboy persona to fool the public. Let Bundy say what he wants to say, maybe it’s rough and uncomplicated but he doesn’t have a full time staff preparing comments and speeches as Harry Reid does.

  2. Nyp says:

    I guess all those militia guys with guns are irrelevant.

  3. Winston Smith says:

    Since the militia pre-dates the federal government, they are the ones who possess the right to keep and bear arms by natural law, without government permission, as affirmed in the Second Amendment.

    The feds, on the other hand, had to have that power delegated to them by the Constitution, i.e. the sovereign states. To any true American that understands how our nation was founded, the concept of the many and varied federal agencies being armed should be far more worrisome than the militia being armed.

    As Tench Coxe stated, “Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? It is feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American . . . . [T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”

    Of course, petey, being a Marxist you seem to be unable to understand the liberty that our Founders pledged their Lives, Fortunes and sacred Honor to protect.

  4. Steve says:

    “I guess all those militia guys with guns are irrelevant.”

    Only as “irrelevant” as those unconstitutional government placed “first amendment areas” which were the impetus for the armed protesters in the first place.

  5. Vernon Clayson says:

    Not sure how protestors and demonstrators became a militia in this instance, can’t be because of the firearms, hell, more men with firearms come out in big game seasons in many states. I’ve seen more men with long guns gathering at pancake breakfasts in southwestern New York before their hunt.

  6. Rincon says:

    The difference is obvious. Protestors with guns have no likely target other than human beings.

  7. Steve says:

    Lets flip that, Rincon, BLM “law enforcement” with weapons had no logical need for guns unless they wished to escalate emotion in a situation rather than lessen and and be inclusive of the people they are supposed to be “serving” in their public employ.
    Placing snipers on hill around the area before any protesters appeared was another escalation added to those unconstitutional, government erected, “first amendment areas”.

    Thanks for reminding me of those government snipers…they are another reason so many protesters showed up with weapons…its well know bringing a knife to a gunfight is a bad idea and the government was armed first.

  8. Rincon says:

    How did the people attending the protest know the feds would be armed? Did Bundy and his wife comment about using their weapons before or after the protest?

  9. Steve says:

    Rincon,,,the feds were there first,,,with weapons and snipers on the hills.

    The protesters came armed because they knew armed “law Enforcement” were waiting.

  10. Rincon says:

    I wonder if the Viet Nam war protesters came armed because the police had weapons. Bringing weapons to face police or federal officials that are carrying out a valid court order is inflammatory, period. Judging from the militia groups that came, showing up unarmed would have meant backing off yet again after twenty years of backing off. Where does it end? If the court order is not enforced, then everyone working BLM land for more than a couple dozen years can claim it for themselves too. Is that reasonable?

    Is it an invalid court order? Well, according to USA Today, “But Bundy’s claim of title is simply wrong. Nevada and other states specifically ceded any claim to the land when they joined the union. They even wrote that fact into their constitutions. Further undermining Bundy’s case, the U.S. Constitution’s Property Clause gives Congress authority over national territory. The Supreme Court has upheld that power as “without limitation.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/04/24/nevada-rancher-cliven-bundy-cattle-blm-armed-standoff-editorials-debates/8125347/

    Although it’s understandable that Nevadans resent the amount of land held by the federal government, claiming tens or hundreds of thousands of acres for oneself when the Nevada Constitution says no is asking for it. If some of the militia fanatics that brought their guns are shot, I won’t cry about it, but you can bet there will be plenty of anarchists that will call them martyrs.

  11. What happened to our right to redress of grievances?

  12. Milty says:

    “If some of the militia fanatics that brought their guns are shot, I won’t cry about it, but you can bet there will be plenty of anarchists that will call them martyrs.”

    If Texas Attorney General (and probable next governor) Abbot raises the “Come and Take It” flag along the Red River, will you be glad to see the feds shoot him too?


  13. Steve says:

    “militia fanatics” prejudice much?

    Not one shot was fired by any of those “militia fanatics”

    OTH the feds were quick to fire a taser at a person taking pictures. Horrors,,taking pictures.

    When did taking pictures of “law enforcement” at work become a taserable offense?

  14. Rincon says:

    Shooting pictures should not be a “taserable offense”.

    “On the weekend of April 12 to 13, over 1,000 anti-government militia groups and Bundy supporters converged on his ranch to defend him from the encroachment of federal agents and demand the return of his cattle…Many came to the protest with loaded firearms…Around 10 a.m. Saturday, Bundy issued an ultimatum to the Clark County sheriff: He had one hour to disarm all federal agents on the property, return the cattle and remove the BLM from Bundy’s land.”

    So the Feds were armed guards, much like the armed guard at a bank. Is it OK to walk into a bank with a weapon, threatening the armed guard because after all, he had the gun first?

    “At 11:10 a.m., Bundy got on a megaphone and told his supporters to go get his cattle back. Local ranchers on horseback, militiamen in pickup trucks and others rode toward the corral where the cattle were being held. BLM agents, decked out in full riot gear, pointed guns at the anti-government group. The two sides jostled.”

    “With the situation nearing the boiling point, the BLM blinked….Why did the federal agents retreat in the face of an angry, armed mob that appeared to be clearly breaking the law?”

    “”…armed mob that appeared to be clearly breaking the law”. Sounds like you guys support selective enforcement of the law, just like you say the Liberals do. If you support ignoring the court orders, then by extension, Obama shouldn’t have to obey the courts either if he feels that they’re wrong. Do we enforce our laws or not?


  15. Winston Smith says:

    Come now, Ricon, it comes down to what is legitimate law. Constitutionally, one of the few delegated responsibilities of the federal government is to secure the nation’s borders. Duh! When you don’t secure your borders, you have no borders. When you have no borders, you have no nation.

    Constitutionally, the BLM shouldn’t even exist, and certainly not with arms. Nearly a million square miles of land in the country has been taken over illegitimately by control freaks acting like they’re part of the Royal Family, and own all the land. And any honest student, even down to age 12, can figure that out.

    So, when the fedbots treat Constitutional powers and laws like a buffet, picking and choosing which ones they like and don’t, of course we who respect the Constitution and its limitations on federal power get a little irritated, since we know its a slippery slope that will only get worse.


    Here is the question, Rincon, where in the Constitution is the federal government given the power to own huge tracts of land in the west?

  16. Steve says:

    April first (no April fool, that is a “first amendment area”

    April 3 Utah angry.

    April six Hundreds of federal officers to “round up cattle”?? (Get real, they knew what they were creating.)

    April 7 Ranchers son arrested for taking pictures.
    The younger Bundy said he was taking photographs and protesting peacefully at the time.
    About a hundred people are now gathered.

    April 10 the BLM takes down the impetus that is attracting more and more national attention.

    AFTER all this (and more) we begin to see the influx of PROTESTERS from around the country, Rincon.

  17. Nyp says:

    Try Art. IV, sec. 3.

  18. Rincon says:

    So Winston, is it correct to say that you feel the law does not have to be obeyed if one doesn’t think it’s constitutional? And who decides what is constitutional – the individual?

  19. Winston Smith says:

    Petey, like all fans of Big Government, apparently studied at the Teddy “If it’s not expressly prohibited, I’ll do it” Roosevelt School of Constitutionality. So much for the concept of delegated powers. One branch of fedbots gets to do pretty much anything it likes, unless another branch stops it, which is pretty rare. Madison’s horizontal balance of powers sometimes just doesn’t work as he had hoped. Of course, the vertical balance is long gone.

    “I often wondered whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lives in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.”- Judge Learned Hand, 1941

    War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength

  20. Milty says:

    “And who decides what is constitutional – the individual?”

    That’s what Nyp said (“You don’t need a judicial ruling to make a decision for yourself whether it not a law is constitutional.”)

  21. nyp says:

    OK, I will start with Milty. It is true that one does not need a judicial ruling to make a decision for oneself whether or not a law is consitutional. For example, I did not need to wait for the Supreme Court to rule that laws criminalizing oral sex were unconstitutional before I decided that such laws were unconstitutional. As a conservative, you may believe that any form of affirmative action is unconstitutional; you need not wait for the Supreme Court to tell you so. And you need not agree with the Court’s ruling two years ago that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional.

    The question is not whether people are permitted to form their own opinons about the application of the Constitution. Rather the question is what actions they are permitted to take upon those opinions. Because we live in a government of laws and not of men, we do not people to people to deliberately disobey laws and disregard final judicial rulings and orders. (Unless, of course, we are talking about heavily armed cattle ranchers who prefer not to pay for using grazing land that does not belong to them.)

  22. nyp says:

    Now, to brave Mr. Smith, who brays insultingly about “fedbots” (whatever that means) and ignores the plain text of Article V of the Constitution, which expressly empowers Congress to “dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States ….”

    But, what else would one expect from someone who considers Abraham Lincoln to have been a villan of history and who believes that 9/11 was a government conspiracy?

  23. The key word is “dispose.”

  24. nyp says:

    So you think that a constitutional provision that empowers Congress to pretty much do whatever it wants with federal land is actually the opposite — a requirement that there not be any federal land?

    That is pretty whack.

  25. Milty says:

    “The question is not whether people are permitted to form their own opinons about the application of the Constitution. Rather the question is what actions they are permitted to take upon those opinions. Because we live in a government of laws and not of men, we do not people to people to deliberately disobey laws and disregard final judicial rulings and orders. (Unless, of course, we are talking about heavily armed cattle ranchers who prefer not to pay for using grazing land that does not belong to them.)”

    If the federal government has the legal authority and moral authority to force its will on Mr. Bundy and his cohorts, then why hasn’t it exercised that authority?

    Even a reasonable guy like Rincon said that he wouldn’t cry “If some of the militia fanatics that brought their guns are shot.”

  26. nyp says:

    Law enforcement officers are entitled to use reasonable discretion in enforcing the law in order to minimize the risk of loss of life — their own or others. Seems to me that BLM should be commended for its actions in defusing a confrontation.

  27. Milty says:

    “Seems to me that BLM should be commended for its actions in defusing a confrontation.”

    But now we have a situation where someone has openly flouted the law and has gotten away with it. For the time being, that is. I’m pretty sure there was something behind Senator Reid’s prediction that this isn’t over yet.

  28. Nyp says:

    I agree.

  29. Steve says:

    Wrong, the BLM created the situation they ultimately had to back away from.

    They certainly could have better prepared the public and been lots more opn in the execution of their court order..that alone would have prevented the onrush of protesters who were prompted by the BLM action prior to April 11/12 when the thousands of protesters showed up.

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