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Crosstalk: What is the role of the militia today?

by RaeLynn Ricarte

The U.S. Constitution was expressly designed to restrain government and the provision for a militia was tied to the Second Amendment as a protection against tyranny.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed,” reads the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

There is no known writing of the 1787-1791 period, when the Bill of Rights was being debated, to support the argument that the militia reference in the Second Amendment was intended to protect the “collective” right of states to maintain National Guard units.

“The people” reference in the Second Amendment is the same as in the Fourth, Ninth and 10th, which deal with the rights of individuals.

The founders believed that another civil war could be averted if the people had redress against government overreach.

Thomas Jefferson said this of the right of citizens to rebel: “…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 tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Alexander Hamilton wrote: “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense, which is paramount to all positive forms of government.”

James Madison agreed that “the ultimate authority…resides in the people alone” and predicted that encroachment on the rights of citizens would provoke “plans of resistance” and an “appeal to a trial of force.”

That same sentiment was carried by Patrick Henry, who said: “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”

Fast forward to 2016 and the standoff in Harney County.

Would we, as a state and nation, even be having a conversation about whether the federal government should own 72 percent of the county’s land base, creating economic hardship for the people, if an armed militia had not taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge?

Would anyone have brought national attention to the double-jeopardy situation involving Dwight and Steve Hammond, ranchers in Harney County who served time for arson and then had federal prosecutors send them back to prison for more time?

Important issues have been raised here about the role of government and it’s important to validate the concerns of people who feel regulators are riding roughshod over them.

A civil war will one day erupt from this cultural divide if the “might makes right” style of governance continues. Unrest and rebellion grow from oppression.

Especially when justice can no longer be found in activist courts where judges push their own political agenda.

by Mark Gibson

I find it hard to see how the “militia” that has taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge offices in Harney County can be said to constitute a “well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” as described in the Second Amendment.

“Well regulated” suggests a command structure and disciplined troops.

“Security of a free State,” in my mind, suggests that Oregonians, not out-of-state radicals, should be calling the shots in Malheur.

But while I do not see justice being served by an armed militant takeover of a federal facility, I do understand the frustration of many in Eastern Oregon who feel they are not being treated fairly.

During an Oregon Public Broadcasting radio program on the issue, a caller from Portland said, “Those of us in Portland and the Willamette Valley run this state, and we should pass a citizens initiative returning all of these lands to the Native People.”

That is much of the problem here on the east side: When the balance of power, nationally and in the state, begin to falter the “rule of the majority” becomes the deciding factor. In Oregon, that majority is on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.

When representational government becomes stalemated and ineffectual, and political process is circumvented, urban population centers are increasingly able to impose their will on all, and there is simply no way a rural community of thousands can compete, on votes alone, with an urban center representing hundreds of thousands.

This urban/rural divide is quite clear in the “comments” made under Maupin rancher Keith Nantz’s opinion article in the Washington Post titled “I’m an Oregon rancher. Here’s what you don’t understand about the Bundy standoff.”

Again and again, it is clear that not only do both parties disagree, but fail profoundly in understanding each other across the cultural divide.

As a rancher, it must be terrifying to see wolf management decisions based, for example, on the undeniable beauty of a wolf’s howl rather than on a realistic understanding of wolves and the impacts they have on ranchers.

Cattle can both harm – and help re-establish – the “wildness” and health of public lands, a truth many peering across the cultural divide refuse to accept.

It’s no surprise people on this side of the mountains get “fed up.”

But does a “militia” have a role in settling these disputes?

I’m not a fan of the idea, but if such a move is necessary — and there are some who believe it is —then Eastern Oregon should establish a “well regulated militia” now, rather than leave such a potentially disastrous step in the hands of anti-government dissidents and hotheads who are attracted to conflict not by the justice or injustice of the situation but merely by the opportunity the conflict provides them in furthering their cause.

What would such a militia look like?

Who would call the shots?

It’s a large and profound question: And one that should be settled well before lines are drawn in the desert sands of Malheur.


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