For the sake of argument, suppose a group of monkey wrenchers, by force of arms, occupies a logging camp on U.S. Forest Service land and locks it down for a number of weeks.
Let’s say that people affiliated with Antifa, by force of arms, take over a college student union building in order stop an alt-right group from appearing at a campus forum.
Or consider this scenario — people opposed to Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies, by force of arms, take and hold a section of land to block construction on the president’s southern border wall.
Eventually, the suspects surrender. They’re taken into custody. Charges are filed. But at trial, the cases against them go haywire. Either the prosecutors’ behavior draws a rebuke from the judge — and a mistrial declaration — or the juries conclude the U.S. attorneys failed to prove their case and acquit the defendants.
There’s not much doubt about what occurred. All the incidents were extensively documented by law enforcement and the media. Photos and video of the gun-bearing insurgents are widely available.
In any event, these individuals emerge from months or years of detention free and clear.
They remain American citizens in good standing; nobody has renounced his citizenship.
They’re not fleeing from justice.
They’ve not been convicted of any felony, drug charge or domestic violence misdemeanor. In fact, no indictments of any kind are pending.
Nor has any protective order been filed against them.
None has been dishonorably discharged from the military.
Certainly, none has been declared mentally “defective” or committed against his will to a mental institution.
So one day, one of them — maybe it’s an environmental extremist, an immigration protester or an Antifa member — walks into a gun shop and attempts to purchase an AR-15.
After an initial hiccup with the federal background check — possibly due to the fact that he had been under federal indictment until recently — the former insurgent gets cleared. Then he walks away with a military assault weapon.
Remember Ammon Bundy?
Twice, he took up arms against the government — in other words, us.
In 2014, Bundy and his family chose to face-off against federal officers in Bunkerville, Nev. They refused to compensate the government for the right to graze their cattle on public land.
Two years later, Bundy led the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns, Ore.
Ultimately, he skated. The first case resulted in a mistrial. In the second, Bundy was acquitted.
So last month, Bundy decided to document his attempts to navigate the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and purchase an AR-15 at D&B Supply in his home town of Emmett. As Bundy correctly surmised, there were no red flags to deny him. The only thing on his record, according to the Idaho Statesman, were a couple of speeding tickets.
Bundy said he wanted the semi-automatic rifle for “home defense, to truly defend, but also, to be honest with you, with the talk about the red flag laws and that movement, you feel and sense that your ability to purchase those types of guns are going to be restricted more and more. I felt, because of that, motivated to purchase that and it would replace one of the guns taken from me and never returned.”
Things didn’t go as planned — or maybe they did. Using his cellphone to record the transaction, Bundy completed the federal background check form. Processing these applications usually takes 2½ minutes but in his case, it lasted about a half-hour. Then he was denied.
A few days later, the FBI changed its mind and approved Bundy’s purchase.
When he returned to the store, however, Bundy didn’t cotton to signing a paper acknowledging his agreement to the background check — most likely a standard Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form 4473. He signed “in protest” instead of his own name and ultimately left without making the purchase.
Possibly, he’ll now pursue the plan he earlier outlined — bypassing the background check system entirely by exploiting its loopholes.
“They only have the power to try and stop me from doing it through a licensed gun dealer,” he told the Statesman. “I have every right to go purchase a gun through private means or to build one. I do intend to do that.”
Maybe this doesn’t bother you so much because you find Bundy’s politics sympathetic. But what about the next radical who does not share Bundy’s agenda, only his proclivity to take the law into his own hands?
If any of them can get a military assault weapon, what does that say about this country’s gun laws?
None of this can make you sleep any easier at night. — M.T.