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Nation of laws

Fri, May 2nd, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

We are a nation of laws including federal, state and local laws. The laws are interpreted by the courts, created or repealed by elected legislators, signed into law by the executive official, and enforced by a variety of law enforcement agencies. The founding fathers envisioned a nation ruled by duly enacted laws of our own making. A fairly enforced legal system protects freedom and property.

Our laws allow for an individual to do anything which is not forbidden by law and for the state to only do that which is authorized by law.

If laws are not enforced, they have no value. Continued non-enforcement can lead to chaos or a lack of organization and control. Law enforcement agencies can not selectively pick which laws to enforce. Laws are basic to a functioning society.

Cliven Bundy, Nevada rancher (Bunkerville), has chosen to choose which laws he needs to obey. He does not recognize the existence of the federal government, so he refuses to pay grazing fees for the cattle he has on public land in the Gold Butte area. He has refused payment for a couple of decades. He owes the federal government over $1 million in grazing fees and fines. He is a citizen of Nevada and of the United States whether he chooses to recognize our country’s existence or not. As a citizen, he is bound by the laws of both. He has been ordered by the court numerous times to pay the fees. He owes the federal government and all of us as taxpayers for his use of public land. His refusal to pay what is owed cheats all of us.

After years of attempts to settle the conflict both in and out of court, two federal court orders were issued requiring the removal of his cattle from public land and prohibiting Bundy’s interference with the round up. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently met armed resistance from sympathizers and militia groups during its efforts to round up about 900 head of Bundy’s cattle. The BLM backed down and released the cattle that had been rounded up citing safety concerns for federal employees and the public. It is noteworthy that his supporters displayed the American flag, which Bundy apparently doesn’t recognize.

Nevada joined the union as the 36th state in 1864. Eighty-four percent of Nevada land is owned by the federal government (76 percent controlled by the BLM). This year is the 150th anniversary of Nevada statehood. The Nevada constitution adopted the congressional “Enabling Act,” which allows the federal government to own “unappropriated land” within the United States. For several decades there has been an effort in Nevada by state’s rights groups to turn control of the public land over to the state.

Bundy, prior to his deplorable comments related to race and slavery, was just a law breaker and a dead beat; certainly not a folk hero or a patriot. After his offensive comments, we can add ignorance and a total disregard of the inhumanity of slavery, which has forever placed a black mark on the history of the United States, to his list of character flaws.

If we disagree with a law, we don’t have the option to just disregard it. Laws must be enforced. Our system of government gives each of us the opportunity to try to change, reverse, or amend a law. We can work to gain public support for our point of view, contact our legislators, and reserve our vote for those politicians who agree with us. Many of Bundy’s supporters believe the federal government has too much control over public lands and want to promote state control of public lands. They have every right to express their opinions, to try to change the law, and to protest. However, the armed protest that interfered with and threatened federal officers carrying out a legal court order is most concerning and poses a danger to a system that has worked fairly well for over two centuries.

Hopefully, this matter can be resolved peacefully. Bundy can not be allowed to continue to break the law without consequences, as it sends a signal that laws and the courts can be ignored. There is no order without laws and their enforcement. Without order none of us will be free.

Bundy does not own the disputed land nor is it under control of the state. It is federal land. Just because his family has had the opportunity to use the land for decades, it does not give him the right of ownership. He

has essentially rented the land through a subsidized program of the federal government, at least until he refused to pay the nominal grazing fees. He now owes the federal government over a million dollars. The BLM was carrying out a court order to round up the cattle. He is cheating the federal government and all tax payers. No one is above the law or should they be. These are the facts.

As the very wise, late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

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