While Barack Obama is trying to ensure that everyone who purchases a gun in the United States undergoes a background check, another kind of melodrama is playing out in Oregon. Michael Harris writes:
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was taken over by a band of armed men led by Ammon Bundy on January 2. They have occupied public buildings, destroyed government property, and seized government heavy equipment and trucks, claiming they are now the property of the people. They call themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. They are about 25-strong, give or take a firearm or two.
Bundy, a former rancher, says God told him to occupy the government facility. It is not known if God had earlier advised his father, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, not to pay fees for grazing his cattle on federal land.
Bundy and his followers see themselves as latter day Davy Crocketts and Jim Bowies making their last stand against tyranny. And Obama knows with whom and what he is dealing:
The last thing the outgoing president wants before the November presidential elections is a replay of Waco, Texas on his watch. Eighty-two members of the Branch-Davidians religious sect died there after a 51-day standoff with federal authorities back in 1993.
Ruby Ridge might also be on Obama’s mind. Back in northern Idaho in 1992, there was a deadly standoff between Randy Weaver and federal authorities at Ruby Ridge. When the shooting was over, Weaver’s son, Sammy, and wife Vicki were dead, along with Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan. A Ruby Ridge task force subsequently found serious flaws in the use of deadly force by law enforcement, and a Senate subcommittee called for reforms to prevent a repeat of the shoot-out in Idaho.
Some Republican presidential candidates are lending their tacit support to Bundy:
The protesters also enjoy the support of Republican presidential candidates, though it is usually expressed with a token criticism of the armed takeover. The bottom line is that people like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio support the militia movement in the United States. Even presidential candidate Ben Carson has said that the “ranchers” have “legitimate grievances.”
Those of us who live north of the 49th parallel are asking, "What has happened to the United States?"