My novel, "Where Law Ends," is a re-telling of the legend of the Montana Vigilantes. If you aren't familiar with the story I'll give you the Reader's Digest version here:
Henry Plummer was a real life figure who migrated from California to the gold fields of southwestern Montana in 1862. He was elected sheriff and, with the help of just one deputy, enforced the law in a place inclined to rampant lawlessness.
Meantime, a group of "respectable citizens" accused Plummer of masterminding a nefarious gang of "road agents" and took the law into their own hands. (Buy the book at Amazon and find out what happened. Send it to me care of the MDJ and I'll autograph it for you).
As you will discover, I take a dim view of vigilantism. People who appoint themselves judge and jury are dangerous criminals as Henry Plummer discovered.
America is a nation of laws, thank God in heaven. We have due process for all, exceptionally trained police to investigate violations, learned attorneys serving as defenders and prosecutors to apply the law, and other learned attorneys serving as judges to rule on the law, case by case. We have appellate courts to rule on the judges' rulings. If punishment is imposed, we have a legal system for that, too.
Law is what makes America special. No one is above it.
I got to thinking about the Montana Vigilantes after watching Sean Hannity inciting a Mesquite, Nevada rancher to take up arms against federal employees.
Why was a Fox News' employee (Fox itself is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission) declaring Cliven Bundy and his goofball adult kids within their rights to aim loaded weapons at Bureau of Land Management agents who came around last week to confiscate their cattle under a lawful court order?
Bundy has, for 20 years, allowed his 500 or so cows to graze on public lands, which is perfectly alright. The only stipulation is he must pay a fee of $1.35 per head per day for that privilege, a bargain compared to the cost of grazing cows on private lands.
Most every rancher in the West abides by this reasonable pricing structure, with the BLM lawfully administering compliance.
Except Cliven Bundy, a citizen of the United States, protected by its armed forces and police, and a user of its public facilities like roads and bridges, doesn't "recognize" the authority of the federal government so he hasn't paid his grazing bill.
Imagine, you Cobb County residents, declaring you don't recognize the lawful authority of the county government and not paying your property taxes. In very short order, my friends, your mattresses, TVs and furniture would be on the curb and there would no Sean Hannity to applaud your "patriotic" pluck live, coast-to-coast.
Leave it to a little SOB like Sean Hannity to make a hero out of Bundy the Deadbeat Rancher. Nowadays, the federal "gubmint" means Barack Hussein Obama, and we ain't obeyin' no laws so long as that damn (fill in the blank) is in the White House!
"We have interviewed neighbors and people in and around Mesquite and they have said that (Bundy) is breaking the law," said Chuck Meyer, news director at CBS' KXNT Radio in Las Vegas. "When it comes to the matter of the law, Mr. Bundy is clearly wrong."
The confiscation of cattle came because Bundy ran up a $1 million tab with the feds. Last year a court ordered Bundy to remove his cattle or they would be confiscated and sold to pay what Bundy owed.
He deliberately disobeyed the order and the BLM began confiscation. When armed vigilantes showed up to defend Bundy, several aiming their assault weapons at the BLM agents, the feds released the cattle out of "serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public."
Now Hannity is trying to coax Bundy and his vigilante buddies into pulling the trigger so Fox News has a Waco or Ruby Ridge-style shoot-out it can sensationalize, one for which Hannity can take full credit.
Accept Hannity will never accept responsibility. He'll say it was Obama's fault.
The St. George (UT) News editorialized: "The Bundy Range War was perpetuated by an irresponsible media vying for nothing more than ratings and an ill-informed and willfully ignorant public who, much like a NASCAR fan, come to the race simply in hopes of seeing a crash."