“Mr. Bundy and his gun-toting comrades argue that a century of federal policies has driven many ranchers into poverty and destroyed the rural economy. This is mostly nonsense.”
Many second amendment defenders have become more adamant in their beliefs that their access to guns are in danger, making them more at risk of being persecuted by a tyrannical government. The claim is a far reaching exaggeration. The armed occupation of the Malheur Nature Sanctuary in Eastern Oregon shows just to what extremes the far-right will go to make their point. The standoff started after the occupiers hijacked a protest over a five year prison sentence of two ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, for committing arson on federal land. The group, led by Ammon Bundy, seized the wildlife refuge, with Bundy claiming they will stay, “as long as necessary”, and that they “would defend ourselves”, if action is taken against them. The occupation is the latest stunt in a long-running debate over the amount of federal land in Western states. The Bundys claim it has destroyed the rural economy. This is also an exaggeration. The government has been a generous landlord and has balanced commercial and environmental interests. The Hammonds have taken a more civil approach to protesting their incarceration. They reported to prison, asked for clemency and have been attempting to work through the courts to find a solution. They’ve done all this without brandishing a gun against the government. Law enforcement has been put in an unwinnable situation: use force and somebody may be killed, in effect validating the far-right’s claim; and if it simply walks away, the extremists will be re-energized. As of now, the Bundys have little support, which shows people’s distaste for pushing their agenda through the barrel of a gun.