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In Wake of Las Vegas Killings, It's Time to Tread on Insurrectionists

06/10/2014 06:46 am ET | Updated Aug 10, 2014
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On Sunday, our nation endured another gruesome tragedy when pro-gun extremist Jerad Miller and his wife Amanda allegedly ambushed two police officers -- Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31 -- in a Las Vegas pizza restaurant and shot them dead. The Millers then draped the officers' bodies with a Gadsden Flag ("Don't Tread on Me"), confiscated their weapons and ammunition, and told onlookers they had witnessed the start of a "revolution."

The killers moved on to a nearby Walmart, where they shot and killed a concealed handgun permit holder who tried to intervene and proclaimed, "We're freedom fighters!" The terrifying episode finally ended when the Millers took their own lives as police closed in and opened fire.

Neighbors of the Millers in Lafayette, Indiana report that the two had a penchant for sharing racist, anti-government views and handing out "white-power propaganda." They also bragged about their gun collection, despite the fact that Jerad was a convicted felon with a long history of drug- and domestic violence-related offenses. On his Facebook page, Jerad Liked the National Rifle Association, the National Association for Gun Rights, Three Percenter Nation and Rand Paul and posted/shared an endless stream of pro-gun memes.

But perhaps the most interesting revelation is that the Millers were in Las Vegas because they had recently traveled to Bunkerville, Nevada to participate in Cliven Bundy's armed confrontation with law enforcement agents. On April 9, Jerad excitedly posted to his Facebook page, "Ranch war almost under way... We need to watch this closely, could be the next Waco and start of revolution." Ten days later, he provided the following update in a YouTube comment:

I was out there but they told me and my wife to leave because I am a felon. They don't seem to understand that they are all felons now for intimidating law enforcement with deadly weapons ... We sold everything we had to buy supplies and quit our jobs to be there 24/7.

The Millers' involvement in Bunkerville should be a glaring red flag to every American who cares about the democratic principles of government established by our Constitution. It should also be a wake-up call to our government. If government agents continue to hesitate to enforce the rule of law against armed insurrectionists like Cliven Bundy, the specter of anarchy and continued political violence will loom large over our great nation.

In Bunkerville, Bundy and his followers have used a combination of threats and intimidation to prevent the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from executing two court orders to seize cattle. BLM's dispute with Bundy stems from his refusal to pay more than $1 million in grazing fees over two decades. The situation very nearly resulted in bloodshed on April 10 and 12 of this year, when angry Bundy supporters aggressively confronted BLM agents and Las Vegas Metro Police at his ranch. Las Vegas Metro officers reported fearing for their lives. "With rifles pointing toward each side," BLM agents made the decision to withdraw from the ranch and "conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public."

Since that time, Bundy's followers have continued to occupy the community of Bunkerville like an invading army and have reportedly subjected residents to searches at armed checkpoints. Anti-government and pro-gun extremists elsewhere have also been emboldened by Bundy's rebellion. On May 10, armed protesters drove motorized vehicles into Utah's Recapture Canyon in violation of federal regulations designed to protect archaeological sites. One of those protesters was Ryan Bundy, a son of Cliven's.

These actions -- and the lack of response from elected officials -- have galvanized those who promote radical concepts like nullification, Posse Comitatus theory, and the "Insurrectionist Idea," which is the fallacious belief that the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to shoot and kill elected officials, law enforcement officers and military services members when they believe our government has become "tyrannical." And let's be clear -- Jerad Miller bought into the Insurrectionist Idea entirely, as evidenced by a video he posted at his YouTube channel entitled "Would George Washington Use an AK-47?":

People in this country have been brainwashed into thinking that our Second Amendment is about hunting and sporting ... I admit there's a lot of gun deaths in this country, but not nearly the millions that have died because of governments turning on their own people. Imagine if the Jews had picked up arms and fought against Hitler ... Our Founding Fathers picked up arms, whatever they had... they did that for us, today. They gave us the Second Amendment to protect what I am doing right now, exercising my right to free speech.

By staring down the U.S. government at gunpoint and "winning," Bundy is inspiring those of weak mind like Jerad Miller to seek a little "glory" of their own. It's long past time to hold Bundy and his gang accountable for their actions and send a clear message to the insurrectionists. The BLM should enforce the court orders that authorize it to remove Bundy's trespassing cattle from public lands, which belong to all Americans. Likewise, the FBI should conclude its investigations into alleged death threats, intimidation and possible weapons violations committed by Bundy's followers and arrest the appropriate parties. We must also collect and assess intelligence to disrupt lone wolves and insurrectionist cells before they can take violent action. I'm encouraged to see that Attorney General Eric Holder has reestablished the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee to combat "escalating danger" from homegrown terrorists (an initiative that Jerad Miller criticized on his Facebook page just days before his rampage).

And let us cease referring to Bundy's and his ilk as "militia." They are not militia in any sense, and would have been regarded as nothing more than a mob by our Founders who ratified the Second Amendment in 1791. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution makes it clear that the role of the militia is to "execute the Laws of the Union" and "suppress Insurrections." The fact that we refer to modern-day insurrectionists as "militia" just shows how divorced we are from an era in which the right to keep and bear arms demanded accountability and service to government. It also shows how totally the National Rifle Association has perverted our national debate on the Second Amendment.

As for George Washington, who Jerad Miller invoked by name, it doesn't take a great deal of imagination to predict how Washington would have dealt with Cliven Bundy and armed extremists who brandish their weapons at officers of the law. In July 1794, Washington had to face such a crisis when farmers in Western Pennsylvania took up arms in protest of a federal whiskey tax and used violence and intimidation to prevent collectors from doing their job. The unrest culminated with more than 500 armed rebels attacking the fortified home of tax inspector General John Neville.

Washington, who was president at the time, had seen enough, and used his power as Commander-in-Chief to call up the state militia. He explained that "the essential interests of the Union demand it" and added, "the very existence of government and the fundamental principles of social order are materially involved in the issue." Then the great general of the Revolutionary War mounted his horse and rode out at the head of 13,000 real militiamen to confront the rebels. In the face of this show of force, the farmers called off their insurrection. The rebellion was broken.

There is little doubt that many Americans watched events unfold in Bunkerville, Nevada with a great deal of frustration. No one wants to see a double standard in our justice system. "I pay my ranching fees religiously, but this guy mooches for 20 years." "I break the law and get busted, but these guys point their guns at law enforcement officers and walk free." The big idea that binds us as Americans is that we're all supposed to be equal before the law. When we're not, confidence in the democratic form of government created by our Founders is eroded, and terrorists like Jerad and Amanda Miller get the idea that the time for "revolution" has come.

President Washington did not give one minute of countenance to insurrectionists in 1794 and neither should we today. It's time for the Rule of Law to prevail.