LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada congressman is calling on elected officials in the state to rid a town in his district of militia members who have rallied around rancher Cliven Bundy in his battle with federal land managers.
Rep. Steven Horsford, in an address to the Clark County Democratic Convention in Las Vegas on Saturday, said he's making the request after hearing more complaints from constituents about the presence of Bundy supporters near Bunkerville, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
In encampments around the Bundy ranch, self-described militia members from around the country continue to camp with handguns on their hips and heavier weaponry within reach in a show of support for Bundy.
Bundy, a states' rights advocate who refuses to acknowledge the authority of the federal government, owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties for letting his cattle use government land over the past 20 years. Last month, the Bureau of Land Management stopped trying to round up his cattle after a showdown with hundreds of Bundy supporters, some of them armed.
Horsford, who attended a public event in nearby Mesquite earlier Saturday, said he was approached by residents there wanting to know about his plans to get militia members out of the area.
He said a fifth-grade girl told him that Bundy has a "sense of entitlement" and should pay grazing fees like other ranchers who use public land in the West. A man told him that Bundy is a "welfare rancher" living off taxpayer subsidies, Horsford said.
"And that is why I am calling on (Gov.) Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller, the (Clark County) sheriff (Doug Gillespie) and any other elected official in Nevada to do their part to get rid of these armed separatists," Horsford said to loud cheers from about 200 delegates.
Sandoval and Heller are Republicans, while Gillespie holds a nonpartisan position.
Sandoval spokesman Mac Bybee referred The Associated Press on Sunday to an interview on the "Nevada Newsmakers" television show taped Friday in which the governor acknowledged people have a right to feel safe in their homes.
Asked if Gillespie plans to move militia groups from the Bunkerville area, Sandoval replied, "No, and even if he had said that, I wouldn't share that with you, because certainly that's a conversation between the two of us."
"I just know that he is monitoring the situation and he's very aware of what's going on out there," the governor added, according to KRNV-TV.
Heller, who has labeled Bundy's supporters as "patriots," and Gillespie did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Horsford also has called for federal authorities and Gillespie to investigate the gun-toting force that Horsford said was frightening for residents.
Openly carrying a pistol or rifle is legal in Nevada, and permit holders can carry concealed weapons.