Bob Barr

While the risk of violence has – thankfully – subsided (at least for the moment), important questions remain.

Why did the federal government jeopardize the lives of its own employees and of many innocent civilians, simply to protect a turtle and to collect on an outstanding (and disputed) grazing bill?

The Bundy Ranch debacle also raises serious questions about this Administration’s control of its own agencies. Was the BLM so scared of a single rancher who (perhaps rightfully) questioned the federal government’s authority on an issue best left to the state itself, that it decided the only course of action open to it was to surround his ranch with armed agents from multiple agencies? Were there not other options for enforcement of these fees? Are turtles that might be living in the area so important to our country that we should risk killing civilians over them?

“Instead of resolving this in a peaceful way; instead of docketing his property with a judgment,” Judge Andrew Napolitano argued on FOX Business this week, “they swooped in. . . with assault rifles aimed and ready, and stole [Bundy’s] property.”

Even worse than apparent violations of Bundy’s due process rights, the BLM’s actions are another alarming sign that the constitutional rights --and lives -- of U.S. citizens are considered expendable when balanced against the government’s need to enforce control over land and citizens.

Given that the federal government owns more than 80 percent of the land within the state of Nevada, the standoff at Bundy Ranch may very well be far from over; especially if we are to take Nevada’s Democratic Senator Harry Reid at his word. “It’s not over,” Reid ominously told reporters after the BLM’s tactical retreat. “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

That is precisely why an official congressional inquiry into the BLM’s handling of the case, as well as Senator Reid’s curious involvement, is needed immediately if we are to prevent future potentially deadly situations from occurring the next time the BLM – or any of the other dozens of federal bureaucracies whose employees are authorized to carry and use weapons against civilians -- decides someone owes it money.

We might also wonder why a U.S. President appears so ready to risk violence between its agents and its citizens, when he seems so hesitant to risk confrontation when defending our security interests abroad.

Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.