Too many are under the mistaken belief that the Bundy occupation is simply about Dwight and Steven Hammond. It’s not. While the political persecution of the Hammonds may have been the spark to ignite the tinder of the occupation, the move by the Bundy brothers and their fellow protesters have more to do with the federal government’s abuse of Western states than anything else.
The federal government will stop at nothing to keep their grip on the throat of western ranchers and the Bundys claim that that includes outright intimidation and threats.
In a recent interview with the Daily Caller, Ammon Bundy explained why the Hammonds were (re)imprisoned for their supposed “crimes” and also maintained that the Hammonds were threatened by federal authorities, promising to make their prison time harder on the father and son if they talked to the Bundys.
The Hammonds lit two fires- one in 2001 and one in 2006.
“The one in 2001, which was a prescribed burn, what happened is that fire jumped over the property line onto federally controlled the land. All it did was burn grass and the Hammonds put the fire out themselves,” Bundy said. The Hammonds also contacted the fire department before conducting the burn.
In 2006, the Hammonds lit a backfire to protect their land against a wildfire caused by a lightning strike that threatened their land.
“They lit a backfire which is a useful tool in putting fires out because when the two fires meet they run out of fuel,” Bundy said. However, the fire also burned “federal” land- land claimed by the federal government without any constitutional authority.
In truth, the federal government should thank the Hammonds for doing what they would not.
The Hammonds’ previous attorney has maintained that the Bundys do not speak for the Hammonds, but Ammon Bundy detailed why, exactly, the Hammonds might be hesitant to embrace the occupation.
Speaking of the Hammonds’ previous attorney and his statement, Bundy noted,
“Well that was their attorney, not them, and they fired their attorney, by the way. They fired him way before he said that. When we first met with the Hammonds, they told us they were not going to spend one more dime on an attorney. That’s what they told us. Because they spent upwards of $1 million on attorneys trying to defend themselves with what’s coming at them.”
“They were threatened for speaking to me by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They were threatened that if they continued to open communications with me, that they would be detained early and be put in a less desirable prison.”
The Bundy occupation is a constitutional issue that is meant to bring awareness to the rampant abuse perpetrated by the federal government. While the federal government operates under the assumption that they may take whatever lands they wish and leave the scraps for the states, the Constitution outlines a different principle.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution outlines how much land the federal government is allowed to own and for what purpose. It outlines a need for a federal capital (Washington, D.C.) and allows for the government to possess lands to administrate and maintain a military presence. It reads:
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
The federal government claims roughly 85% of all land in the Bundys’ home state of Nevada for themselves. According to the Congressional Research Center, the federal government claims for themselves 53% of Oregon’s land. While it is certainly reasonable to allot land for federal facilities such as military bases, how can the federal government pretend that claiming ownership of the majority of land in Western states is anything short of outright federal tyranny?
It is chilling to see an armed occupation, but it has, sadly, become necessary to remind the federal government who, really, is in charge.