Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2017

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where i stand:

Obama takes on guns; Bundy takes up guns


Les Zaitz/The Oregonian / via AP

A sign tacked outside a Burns, Ore., home reflects growing community sentiment that outsider militia aren’t welcome, in mid-December 2015. Self-styled patriots and militia say they are in the area to help two ranchers convicted of arson for burning federal land. The sign refers to Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

Guns and God. Lord help us.

Just when the country needed something, anything, to take our minds off the insanity of the Donald Trump and gang phenomenon taking place in the Republican presidential primary race, along comes Ammon Bundy. Oh, happy day.

I couldn’t help thinking about this odd turn of events as I was listening to President Barack Obama explain his executive actions regarding guns and what he was going to do to try to make our country just a little bit safer for all Americans, especially children.

He finally was taking some action to enforce the existing gun laws in this country — something his Republican opponents have been asking him to do ever since the National Rifle Association wrote the script for its congressional lackeys. He laid out his proposals, which an overwhelming majority of Americans want and agree are common-sense gun-safety reforms.

Like many others, I listened to the president’s speech and the reasons for his actions — actions he would have rather had Congress implement but for obvious and obnoxious reasons it won’t — and, yes, even got emotional as he recounted the senseless slaughter of 5- and 6-year-old children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

And while there were critics who couldn’t wait to pounce hysterically — that’s what they do, especially when they are paid to do it — I am certain most sensible Americans wouldn’t take issue with anything President Obama said.

While all that was going on in Washington, Ammon Bundy and his crew were holed up in a U.S. wildlife refuge gift shop in rural Oregon, miles from any kind of civilization and light years, it would seem, from any kind of enlightenment. Their wacky invasion was an effort to support two ranchers who had been convicted of setting fires to cover up illegal deer poaching. Those fires spread and destroyed federal land.

Ammon is from the same Bundy family that made news in Southern Nevada in 2014 when the father, Cliven, refused to pay his grazing bill to the government and, instead, invited militiamen from as far away as Michigan to come point their rifles at federal officers just to show them who was boss.

I am sure there were a number of crimes committed but, as far as I know, not much of anything has happened to the perpetrators. And we wonder why Americans question the need for laws and question even more our commitment to enforcing them.

But I digress, and that is not something I want to do when discussing Ammon and his buddies, who as of this writing maintain their position in the gift shop in protest which, as best I can tell, no one, including the so-called victims of government overreach, want them to protest. Sound and fury signifying nothing, indeed.

There has been a resounding reaction to Ammon’s armed insurrection. The folks who were convicted who already turned themselves in to serve their sentence, the sheriff who just wants peace and quiet, the anti-government agitators who live aplenty in the frozen Oregon forests, and whoever else Ammon has decided to stand up for, all of them to a person, have said: “Go home, Ammon. Take your guns and your friends and leave us alone.” Or words to that effect. This is usually followed by muffled laughter and mild bewilderment along with the sobering realization that if this cowpoke Taliban had darker skin there is little doubt that by now blood would have been spilled among the snow globes and guide books in the gift shop.

Meanwhile, the government has done nothing to remove the trespassers, who move freely in and out of the park. And all manner of lawbreaking continues unabated.

If ever there were a time for Trump to build a wall, I would say this would be that time. He can completely fence Ammon and friends in so they cannot jeopardize anyone else or any other law. And it would be a beautiful wall, I am sure. And huge!

Meantime, Ammon claims his actions are a calling from God. As if the fellow who created all that we know in just one week needs this armed-to-the-teeth dude from Southern Nevada to solve the cosmic problem associated with deer poaching, arson and ranching on federal land somewhere in the frozen Northwest.

So, here’s what I concluded.

One of the most important parts of President Obama’s executive order was the commitment of $500 million to the study of mental illness and the ownership and procurement of deadly weapons. We all believe when there is a relationship between the two. None one of us wants to allow the mentally deranged among us to have those weapons.

Knowing all that we know about the Bundy assault on the wildlife refuge gift shop, the peculiar reasons that inspired it, the delusion that God is so weak he needs Ammon’s muscle and the demand for similar action to put an end to grievances no one else understands, it seems we can save most of the $500 million by just sending a team of psychiatrists and other mental health specialists to Oregon to study Ammon and his buddies.

I can’t imagine a stronger correlation between gun ownership and mental health concerns.

Brian Greenspun is owner, publisher and editor of the Sun.

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