The Feds start a fire, the media brings Gasoline.

August 9, 2015

The United States Federal Government is not an unstoppable force to be feared and obeyed without question. Various Federal agencies appear to act with unimpeded authority, because too few private citizens choose to resist. Those that do are commonly vilified in the media.

The current situation at the White Hope Mine near Lincoln is already being called an armed standoff. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, there are a number of armed citizens currently providing security on the property, but they are not there to provoke an armed conflict with law enforcement. That doesn’t change the atypical knee jerk reaction we see in the media. Every time the words armed citizens are spoken, you get the same result.

Lawful defensive actions of law abiding citizens are always portrayed as unnecessary at the very best. The conversations about the presence of firearms suck the air out of the room, and the most important facts of the situation are substantially diminished if not omitted entirely.

One fact of this situation I haven’t seen mentioned yet, is that an active mining operation is actually a very dangerous place. I’ve never seen this particular mine, but I would find it very hard to believe that there are no hazards at all. If this security operation is doing nothing more than preventing criminal trespass, that is completely legal. I personally doubt that’s all their doing.

These folks are most likely protecting the miners property from theft, vandalism, or what have you. They are also quite possibly preventing members of the public from potentially being injured. Unfortunately, the fear mongers are quite successfully, either intentionally or inadvertently diverting attention from not only the important facts, but the underlying problem as well.

So here it is. A particular office of the United States Forest Service unlawfully opened a mining claim to public access. It is possible this is yet another situation where an overzealous individual in a position of authority deliberately ignored the law, and counted on intimidation to advance an agenda. It is equally possible this office merely failed to take the necessary steps to double check the legality of this action. Either way the Feds did something wrong, but even that isn’t the worst of it.

I am certain that an acceptable majority of Federal actions against private citizens are conducted lawfully, but they do have a margin of error. This is to be expected with any human endeavor. Under normal circumstances humility compensates for fallibility. These are not normal circumstances.

Every time the media inflames a situation as it is doing here, the gap between citizens and government grows wider. The agency which acted incorrectly in this case is sheltered from criticism and therefore has no motivation correct their error in a timely and equitable manner. At the same time the citizens on the receiving end have to tolerate ridicule without any clear idea of how long.

This process needs to stop. We can stop it. Regardless of which way your opinion of this situation leans, think about this. If you were a part of this on either side, would you want the stress of the counter productive inflammatory cross talk, or would you prefer the comfort of knowing all you need to worry about is a fair and thorough legal process?

I’m going to continue to follow this situation because I’m tired of seeing the same thing over and over. I’m not getting my hopes up that this one will be different, but I will keep you updated.

Glenn W. Uncles Jr.

Helena, Montana


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