Thank God for the 2nd Amendment. How Else Would The Militia Keep Us Safe?

In case you’ve forgotten, the revered 2nd Amendment requires that every male citizen own a gun in order to serve in the militia and thus protect our country from harm. While of late the term ‘militia’ has become synonymous with crazy, government-resistance strategies promoted by dummies like Cliven ‘let me tell you about your Negro’ Bundy, the idea of para-military citizen’s groups defending themselves, their families, their friends and their communities remains central to Gun-nut Nation’s messaging about guns.

It just so happens that we actually possess a first-person accounting of how one of these citizen-militia groups behaved back in the good old days long before enemies of the ‘right to bear arms’  like Mike Bloomberg or Pete Buttigieg reared their ugly heads. The narrative is found in a book, The Pine Barrens, written by John McPhee. The author has been teaching writing at Princeton University for more than forty years, and has contributed more than 100 pieces to The New Yorker magazine since 1963.

 To many of my readers, the Pine Barrens is associated with a great episode from The Sopranos, where Paulie and Christopher drive into the area in mid-Winter to bury a guy they have killed who then turns out not to be so dead. Their victim runs off, the two North Jersey gumbahs quickly find themselves in the middle of millions of acres of semi-wild woodlands, they end up spending the night cursing at each other inside their semi-frozen car.

What McPhee explains in his brief and beautifully-written book, is that the Pine Barrens weren’t so barren in times past. In fact, the woodlands provided all kinds of raw materials used before and during the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, such as iron ore, charcoal and wood. But as new technologies and modern modes of transportation emerged, the villages in the Barrens began to disappear and the whole region reverted to a semi-natural state, a process still occurring in many areas that were settled in the pre-industrial period and are now lacking in human presence again.

I live less than 30 miles from an area in my state (Massachusetts) called the Monroe Plateau. The Plateau used to be a farming zone, then it saw the development of water-powered mills, now it basically supports beavers, bears, moose and deer. Walk a half-mile into the woods from one of the roads that runs through the Plateau and you better know how to get out or you won’t get out.

McPhee spends a chapter discussing life in a town called Martha, which had an industrial furnace that started operating in 1793. There were 50 houses in the town, a school, a central main house and a hospital. The town also had a militia which, according to the records studied by McPhee, enrolled all the able-bodied men in the settlement  who had to turn out for drills on something called Training Day.

The militia officers wore uniforms and ‘barked out’ orders which ‘nobody obeyed.’ In fact, according to the town register which listed all events between 1808 and 1815, the training days invariably ended up in drunken brawls. On April, 1, 1814 a militia captain named Townsend was court-martialled for being too drunk to give orders; the trial took place in Bodine’s Tavern, which was also the public space used whenever the town put any issue to a vote.

Note that the description of the militia’s activities were written while the United States was just coming out of the War of 1812. Note how what went on in the town of Martha was really no different than what happened when Cliven Bundy’s son and his buddies organized themselves into a citizen’s militia and took over the Malheur Forest Range. They sat there for a few days, ate some pizza brought up by their wives, then turned themselves in because they forgot that the building which they liberated didn’t have heat.

Whenever my friends in Gun-nut Nation extoll the virtues of a citizen’s militia it sounds rather quaint. Better they should spend a weekend tramping around and defending the 2nd Amendment in a picnic grove; at least that way they won’t get hurt.

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And As For All The Gun Nuts Who Love Trump – Enough Is Enough.

The Boston Globe carried a Sunday story about how some of Trump’s supporters are beginning to lay the groundwork for an armed rebellion if their man loses the election come November 8th.   Here’s a quote from a 50-year old man at a Trump rally: “‘We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed.’” A female supporter chimed in, “’All I know is our country is not going to be a country anymore, I’ve heard people talk about a revolution.’”

trump-toilet            And while Trump’s campaign disavows such statements, he has promoted and approved violence at his rallies and let’s not forget his claim that his people would stand behind him even if he shot someone dead in the street. He’s actively telling people to watch out for voter fraud, he’s already whining that he can’t win because the system is ‘rigged,’ and instead of buying hats that say ‘Make America Great Again,” how about an armed rebellion instead?

I really hope Mister Trump gets his ass kicked in on November 8th. And then I hope he refuses to concede. And then I really hope that a hardy band of Trump Minutemen throw their gear into their F-150s, go out to an abandoned small town in some dumb state and declare that the revolution to take back America has begun. They’ll occupy the empty post office building, issue a stamp which they’ll sell on their Facebook site, and their first law will be a requirement that nobody can live in this new republic who doesn’t own an AR-15.

Back in 2013 a goofball named Adam Kokesh, who is some kind of libertarian radio jock, announced that he and a group of goofballs were going to march from Virginia into Washington DC, openly carrying rifles on July 4th. He then decided to cancel the event, claiming that he didn’t have the time or resources to put the whole thing together.  But the truth is that the only resource he lacked was the cash he would have needed for bail, because the cops let it be known that he and all the schmucks who were planning to liberate the District of Columbia would wind up in jail.

And how about those other freedom fighters led by the sons of Cliven ‘Let me tell you about your Negro’ Bundy, who took over and barricaded themselves into an empty administrative building on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge at the beginning of this year?  They stayed up there for a week or so, wives and girlfriends dutifully trudged through the snow to supply them with home-cooked meals every night, and then that was the end of that.

But let’s get back to the rebellion that Trump Nation is planning to undertake.  By the second day of their ‘occupation’ of some buildings in what once was a small town will become a media circus because, of course, Trump himself will appear.  Then Wayne-o and Chris Cox will come by and issue honorary NRA memberships to the insurgents who will, of course, announce that the entire Constitution of the new Republic will consist of the words from the 2nd Amendment alone.  Boy, I’d give anything to have an exclusive pizza concession for the duration of that event.

I’m getting sick and tired reading about all these patriots who believe that the present government is so corrupt that we need a violent rebellion led by Donald Trump. Funny how these jerks only get exercised about government ‘tyranny’ when the government happens to be led by a progressive guy from Chicago who also happens to be black.  Funny how 16 other Presidents have issued more Executive Orders than the guy who we know was born in Kenya, regardless of what his birth certificate says.

Know what? Let’s get back to what I said above – Trump really needs his ass handed to him on November 8th.

A Brief Response To Josh Horwitz Whose Op-Ed Is A ‘Must Read.’

I earlier posted a thoughtful and sober editorial by Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, about what he considers Street Thug Trump’s embrace of ‘insurrectionist rhetoric’ which, according to Josh, has been promoted by the NRA for years.  I watched Trump’s North Carolina speech several times and I wasn’t sure that he was so much consciously pushing a violent threat as he was just doing what he seems to always do, namely, say something really nasty, hateful and angry but in a snarky and mealy-mouthed kind of way. But my opinion is neither here nor there, the bottom line is that the prevailing narrative has Thug exhorting gun owners to get what they want politically through force of arms. Which is fine as far as I’m concerned, because anything that causes Street Thug to lose even more credibility than what he has already lost is a good thing for me.

columbine            I have to say that I’m not terribly impressed by the fact that Media Matters has reported Street Thug’s embrace of ‘on the verge of Armageddon’ statements from the usual crew at Fox News. Fox is also the venue which carries endless advertisements for freeze-dried food that can be stored in your underground bunker for twenty-five years; investments in gold and silver because currency is going to disappear; maybe the next thing they’ll push are luxury condos across the highway from Area 51.

This whole insurrectionist thing is an offshoot of the so-called militia movement which gained notoriety after it was revealed that Timmy McVeigh and Terry Nichols attended several meetings of the Michigan Militia before they blew up the Murrah Federal Building in 1995.  Actually, what made the Michigan group famous was when they were later featured in Michael Moore’s documentary, Bowling for Columbine which, like all Michael’s films, consists of artfully-edited interviews with every loony, wacko and freak he can find.

In fact, the Michigan bunch aren’t loonies or wackos at all.  They are basically a bunch of guys who like to get together, blast away with their AR rifles to their heart’s content, then sit down and eat a lot of food, particularly the food.  I wrote a column about them back in 2014 and pointed out that there is about as much chance that this hardy band could lead an insurrection against the government as they could get through a weekend shoot without a good supply of doughnuts from the local Dunk.

Come to think about it, the food issue never seems to be far away from whatever these militias groups try to do.  Remember when back in 2016 there was a brief takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon that was led by Cliven Bundy’s sons? I know about all those militia guys who showed up and vowed to protect the Bundy idiots with their lives, and in fact one person did get shot because his car was stopped by law enforcement and then he pulled out a gun.  But the last guy to abandon the siege, forty days after it began, surrendered in return for a free exit and the delivery of a pizza which he promptly consumed.

Look, I have been saying again and again that Street Thug Trump is a danger and a threat because he appeals to fear, openly advocates violence, and the most damaging personal violence is violence caused by using a gun.  But to my mind what was concerning about the Thug’s 2nd Amendment remark in North Carolina was the fact that if he were actually to become President, he would owe the 2nd-Amendment gang big-time.  Know why he blurted out that comment about the 2nd Amendment?  Because both he and the audience were beginning to fall asleep.  But he can always get a rise out of the Gun-nut Nation contingent if he yanks their chains which gets him back on track.

The problem isn’t the insurrection rhetoric, the problem isn’t the militia members with their hots dogs and beer.  The problem is one thing and one thing only – getting every last person to the polls on November 8.  Let’s not forget that.

 

Here Comes Cliven Bundy Again To Protect Your 2nd-Amendment Rights.

You may recall back in 2014 that Arizona rancher Cliven Bundy briefly became the darling of the Conservative movement when a long-standing dispute with the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spilled over into an armed, but ultimately non-violent confrontation between Bundy’s supporters and the federal law enforcement crowd.  Bundy was on his way to becoming the poster-boy for the Right until he uttered a series of racist comments (“let me tell you about your Negro”) that got him condemned by Fox News and that was the end of that.

2A              Now he’s back in the public eye again because his three sons, along with as many as 150 other protestors, have taken over an unoccupied administration compound in Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest the jail sentences of two Oregon ranchers – Dwight and Steve Hammond – who were convicted of arson on national forest lands and now must serve five years in jail.  The Bundy boys claim they are members of a well-armed militia and are prepared to use force to maintain local control over BLM land.  As of Saturday night, the occupiers were feasting on chili brought up to them by friendly locals; meanwhile, the story is beginning to circulate on national media as well as the requisite Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Although the Bundy boys haven’t yet starting selling t-shirts, they make a point of referring to themselves and their merry band as a ‘militia,’ as well as making it clear that they are armed.  Ammon Bundy has been quoted as saying that he and the others will fight and even die to defend what he refers to as the ‘Constitutional rights of states’ to manage their own lands.  The occupation at Malheur is actually a spill-over from a Carson City rally led by Cliven Bundy to support a bill introduced by Rep. Michele Fiore allowing Nevada to seize and manage any federal property, even though there is no Constitutional provision that would actually allow for such a state of affairs. Fiore is the loony legislator who admits to bringing her handgun into gun-free zones because she claims to carry the piece in her bra, so what’s a girl supposed to do?

You can be sure that if this silliness at Malheur gets serious, we will see the usual liberal-conservative division of opinion that takes place whenever states’ rights versus federal authority hove into view.  And one of the issues that will surely be raised is the alleged willingness of this Bundy militia to use armed force if necessary, particularly when the President is making headlines by considering more regulation of guns.  Sooner or later we’ll be treated to a peroration by some gun nut about how these valiant freedom fighters are a living example of the sanctity of 2nd-Amendment rights.  There were hundreds of such comments floating around during the Bundy ranch standoff in 2014, and I’ll quote just one: “The Bundy Ranch standoff is but the latest example as to why the Founding Fathers codified this Right to bear arms.”

But rather than just dismissing this kind of talk as the usual, right-wing rant over 2nd-Amendment rights, my friends in the GVP movement should take a moment and ask themselves whose ox is really being gored.  Because when the SCOTUS decided in 2008 that Americans had the right to keep a handgun in their homes, it was liberals like Breyer and Stevens who dissented based on the idea that the 2nd Amendment only protected gun ownership in instances of military service completely disconnected from any kind of personal defense.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not defending the Bundy boys or the idea that anyone should walk around armed.  But if liberals want to believe that the 2nd Amendment reflects a tradition of resistance to government tyranny, then they need to be prepared to support such resistance, whether it comes from the Left or the Right.  On the other hand, perhaps it would be more consistent just to junk the 2nd Amendment itself.

 

Want To Defend The 2nd Amendment? Go Shopping.

Last week another idiot wearing a sheriff’s badge announced he would not enforce any law extending NICS background checks to private gun transfers in Oregon because keeping guns away from felons and other dangerous folks wasn’t on his list of priorities.  At least this particular lawman had the good sense to justify his enforcement concerns because of duty demands made on the deputies under his command; several weeks earlier an even bigger idiot with a sheriff’s badge in Oregon stated that he wouldn‘t enforce a new background check law because he considered it to be “borderline treasonous.”

I may be wrong, but I always thought that the role of law enforcement was to enforce the law, not to decide which laws to enforce.  Nobody’s arguing with the fact that when it comes to public safety you can’t take a cat down from a tree while the building across the street burns down.  And I happen to be 100% pro-cop, I really am.  I’ve seen cops and other first responders rush into dangerous situations while civilians like myself sat back and quietly gave thanks that we didn’t have to go in there ourselves.  But this nonsense about not enforcing gun-control laws is nothing other than a cynical, calculated ploy to build anti-government (read: anti-liberal, anti-Democrat) sentiment in red-leaning districts and gun-rich states.  The idea that we need to stand up against gun-grabbing Obama because he represents some kind of illegitimate power-grab is a recipe for talk among fools, and I’m being polite.

2A                The sheriffs in Oregon seem to be part of a national trend of lawmen allegedly protecting the 2nd Amendment whenever a state passes a new law restricting the purchase or use of guns.  A group of these sheriffs were particularly active in Colorado where expanded background checks were made into law; another bunch of 2nd-Amendment sheriffs met with Governor Jerry Brown in California while he was considering which gun bills to sign and which to reject; even in liberal New York State a couple of sheriffs publicly stated they would not enforce Andy’s SAFE Act after it became law.

Some of these disgruntled lawmen follow Oathkeepers, a group founded by a former Ron Paul staffer, dedicated to defending the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  With all due respect to the concern for foreign enemies, the group appears to be much more worried about threats from the Bureau of Land Management (you may recall the ongoing dispute with rancher Cliven Bundy) than anything being cooked up in Syria or Iraq.  The poster-boy for this crackpot bunch is a former Arizona sheriff, Richard Mack, who runs his own cabal called Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association which claims to be the “last line of defense” although I’m not sure against what.

The CSPOA claims to have enlisted over 500 sheriffs to “stand” with the 2nd Amendment and they have also “trained” 300 sheriffs in Constitutional rights.  What I find most interesting about this group is the endless array of ads for products and other commercial schemes that evidently help fulfill the requirements for Constitutional defense.  You can protect yourself in an “uncertain world” by stocking up on freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, or reach a new level of personal security by getting into a military-style body armor vest.  For those who want to make absolutely sure they won’t face threats in the most intimate and personal moments, you can register at the Patriot Date website and find the girl or guy who shares your Constitutional dreams.

The organizations worried about the erosion of our Constitutional rights are nothing more than commercial scams.  Which is fine when you stop to think about it, because if nothing else, the Constitution gives us all the unalterable right to buy and sell.  When it comes to threats to my Constitutional rights, the greatest threat would be if Amazon suddenly stopped debiting my Visa card. If that ever occurs, I’m sure Sheriff Mack will accept my payment for something he’s selling, no questions asked.

 

Want To Protect America? Join The Militia Or The Boy Scouts.

Back in 2002 Michael Moore made a documentary, Bowling for Columbine, which vaulted him to the forefront of American filmmakers and reignited the argument about guns that followed the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, which was what the film was all about.  At one point Moore is talking to members of the Michigan Militia, several of whom respond to his tongue-in-cheek questions by explaining that the Militia had been formed to provide the first line of defense against terrorism, crime, tyranny and other threats.  As one of the members put it, “there’s no greater responsibility for every citizen than to protect his family and his home.”

I was thinking about Moore’s movie as I read a recent report issued in July by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) about the April stand-off between Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management and how this event has sparked a ”boiling” of far-Right, anti-government sentiment that has been growing over the course of the Obama Administration and came to a head in the dispute at the Bundy Ranch.  As far as I can tell, there’s still a bunch of flag-waving, AR-toting dudes “protecting” Bundy from the Feds, even though his ill-timed racist remarks resulted in a quick evaporation of support on the part of various conservative politicians and, in particular, Sean Hannity and Fox news.

yellow-militia-logo-sm                But according to the SPLC, even without mainstream media and political support, the Bundy incident has given militia groups a new cause around which they can build a greater anti-government movement and enlist new members in their long-term battle against the New World Order, gun-grabbing liberals, Socialists and Presidents who weren’t born in the United States.  The movement had its roots in the late 60’s and early 70’s with something called the Posse Comitatus, whose racist and anti-Semitic message bore a likeness to the rhetoric and program of the Ku Klux Klan.

Many of these militia groups operate in covert fashion, if only because when the Feds do get serious and bring in the heavy artillery, the militants, like Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, end up on the short end of the stick. But after Michael Moore put his camera on the Michigan Militia, these hardy men and women decided they might as well use their new-found Hollywood status to promote their cause.  So I checked out their website which was set up in 2004 after “much discussion and field experimentation” because to join you have to prove that you meet the “readiness requirements.” And what are these requirements?  You have to show up with a rifle, at least 100 rounds of ammunition, a water bottle, suitable clothing (preferably camo depending on the “tactical situation”), then walk two miles in no longer than 48 minutes with all this gear in tow.

If strolling two miles in slightly more than three-quarters of an hour constitutes a test of physical fitness to defend America against its enemies, we better not count on this bunch to do much more than talk about protecting us from dangers real or anything else.  But in reading the Militia’s Readiness Manual it struck me that as a kid I belonged to something akin to this Militia group; namely the Boy Scouts, whose original Federal Charter, drawn up and signed by President Wilson in 1916, defined the Scouts as an organization that practiced, “patriotism, courage and self-reliance,” words literally echoed by the militiamen interviewed by Michael Moore.

Don’t get me wrong.  Of course there are people who are seriously deranged, prone to believe in all kinds of crazy conspiracies, and in this country they don’t have much trouble getting their hands on a gun.  But with all due respect to the SPLC and other groups who see an insurrectionist under every bed, boys will be boys, toys will be toys and yes, my Boy Scout troop practiced shooting our government-surplus 22s and shooting those guns was just a lot of fun.

 

A Different Perspective On Docs Versus Glocks

I’m going to paraphrase President Obama’s quip about Cliven Bundy at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: If someone starts off by saying that doctors shouldn’t invade the privacy of patients by asking about guns, you don’t really need to know the rest of it. But an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal caught my attention because the writer came up with a rather ingenious reason why gun ownership should not be considered a risk when compared to other, much more serious health risks that physicians don’t treat at all.  And what is the risk that physicians overlook in their obsession to take away all our guns?  Flat feet.

The author of this remarkable missive, a Pensacola resident named David Dodson, was reacting to the newspaper’s editorial which called on physicians, particularly pediatricians, to willfully ignore the law and continue to ask their patients about guns.  What drove Dodson to respond to the newspaper’s opinion was not just the invasion of privacy that occurred every time a physician asked a patient about guns, but his discovery that other, much more important medical issues were being ignored during examinations, in fact, were no longer part of the medical school curriculum.

The result of this negligence, according to Dodson, is s veritable “epidemic” (his word) that physicians have needlessly “thrust” on children by not treating their bad feet which then leads to “bad knees, bad hips, bad backs and lame adults.”  And how did it come about that such an important part of the human anatomy is completely ignored in consultations between physicians and children?  Because “the care of children’s feet is not taught in medical schools anymore.”

docs versus glocks                Dodson’s information on medical school curriculum was told to him by a “member of a national board of pediatrics” which, unfortunately, he neglects to identify or name.  This is too bad because if there is such an organization, it’s probably an offshoot of the medical board that allowed Rand Paul to certify himself as an ophthalmologist.  Maybe Dodson’s a podiatrist, maybe he’s just a nincompoop, and maybe he’s just one of these retired guys who strolls over to the local park every morning to engage the other, self-professed retired experts in whatever important news issues were discussed that morning on Fox.  Whatever he is, physicians and other medical professionals should be heartened by the fact that his op-ed piece was printed by the Pensacola News Journal as a response to its editorial about doctors and guns.

The way it works in the news media is that if an editorial board publishes an editorial on any given subject, they usually feel obliged, in keeping with the notions of balance and fairness, to publish something which gives the opposite argument to what the editorial actually said.  But since the readers don’t see every response to an editorial, we have to assume that the editors can pick and choose based on what they hope their readers will learn from being exposed to both points of view. And I have to imagine that in their decision to publish Dodson’s response, the editors of the Pensacola News Journal wanted their readers to understand exactly why the law criminalizing physician’s seeking information about guns was proof, as they said, that the Florida legislature was “sick in the head.”

Defending the Florida law as an “assault” on the 2nd Amendment, like Obama said about Bundy, just doesn’t go very far.  And anyone who talks about the issue on that basis will wind up talking only to people who don’t have a clue.  But here’s a guy who doesn’t want physicians to ask about guns because he knows that medical school anatomy cuts the human body off somewhere below the knees.  And if we don’t believe him, we can always trust his unidentified source. Now if this is the best that the gun community can produce to keep physicians from asking about guns, on this issue the physicians clearly have the upper hand. The Florid legislature may be sick in the head, but I doubt if the illness will spread all that far.