About those white guys with guns in Oregon (I hesitate to call a bunch of unemployed wannabes a “militia”):
Absolutely, leading an armed takeover of a federal building is idiotic, illegal, and counterproductive.
Absolutely, all these guys should be arrested, charged, prosecuted, and jailed.
Absolutely, it is bizarre that black people get shot for holding cell phones or toy guns or even just looking like they might be holding something while white people can surround federal agents with armed men or take over federal property and be mostly ignored by law enforcement.
Absolutely, if we’re going to demand that Muslims denounce ISIS, we Mormons should also denounce these nut jobs.
Absolutely, their argument that the federal government “has no authority” in Oregon is insane.
But: among all the jibes and insults and well-deserved head-shaking at these jackasses, let’s not lose sight of what precipitated this. Two men (who are probably poachers and who may have a history of distasteful behavior) lit fires on federal land in order to burn back invasive species and in order to protect their winter feed from a larger fire. It was illegal and they should have been punished for it. They were convicted and spend time in jail. BUT – because their actions fell under a statute that Congress enacted to prosecute terrorists, the judge was required to sentence them both to at least 5 years in prison. The judge refused to do so, arguing that it would violate the 8th Amendment. The men served their time and have been released. A federal appeals court ruled that the judge erred and that he had his hands tied by Congress and was required to meet the mandatory minimums. As part of its ruling, the appeals court cited cases in which the Supreme Court had upheld “a sentence of fifty years to life under California’s three-strikes law for stealing nine videotapes,” “a sentence of twenty-five years to life under California’s three-strikes law for the theft of three golf clubs,” “a forty-year sentence for possession of nine ounces of marijuana with the intent to distribute,” and “a life sentence under Texas’s recidivist statute for obtaining $120.75 by false pretenses.”
In other words, since the system had apportioned sentences that were far more unfair and far more disproportionate than the case at hand, the judge couldn’t dismiss the mandatory minimums as unconstitutional.
To sum up, we have two ranchers convicted under a law written specifically to prosecute terrorists. A judge, who is familiar with the facts of the case, has his hands tied by Congress from 1996 who decided that mandatory minimums should apply, regardless of the facts of individual cases. The pathetic white men with guns are a sideshow and a distraction.
The real story here is the legislative creep and overreach of our judicial system, aided by congressional meddling.