It seems, at least according to Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas., that agents with the Bureau of Land Management violated the law during a week-long standoff that saw members of the Bundy family tased, cows killed and protesters facing gunfire for expressing their views, the Western Center for Journalism reported Friday. Stockman also sent a letter to President Obama, Interior Sec. Sally Jewell and BLM Director Neil Kornze, advising them that in his view, any further paramilitary action against the Bundy ranch would be seen as a violation of the Constitution.
“Because of this standoff,” he said, “I have looked into BLM’s authority to conduct such paramilitary raids against American citizens, and it appears that BLM is acting in a lawless manner in Nevada.”
Stockman cited the limited powers granted to the federal government, and said the BLM has no right to assume police powers that rightfully belong to the state. He also explained that “many federal laws require the federal government to seek assistance from local law enforcement whenever the use of force may become necessary.”
He added a section of the U.S. Code — 43 U.S.C. Section 1733, Subsection C — to make his point: "When the Secretary determines that assistance is necessary in enforcing Federal laws and regulations relating to the public lands or their resources he shall offer a contract to appropriate local officials having law enforcement authority within their respective jurisdictions with the view of achieving maximum feasible reliance upon local law enforcement officials in enforcing such laws and regulations.”
In the case of the Bundy ranch, he said, the appropriate law enforcement official would have been the Sheriff of Clark County, Nevada, Douglas C. Gillespie. Gillespie, however, stepped back and let the BLM take a lead role.
Indeed,” Stockman added, “the exact type of crisis that the federal government has provoked at the Bundy ranch is the very type of incident that Congress knew could be avoided by relying on local law enforcement officials." Instead, the federal government engaged in overkill, with snipers, so-called First Amendment areas and no-fly zones.
Stockman said that absent a full investigation, the government must completely back down and should remove all federal agents from the area surrounding the Bundy ranch. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he has spoken with Attorney General Eric Holder and others and indicated further action against the ranch may be forthcoming.
Reid, who is now seen as a central figure in the dispute, also called Bundy supporters "domestic terrorists" and accused them of being unpatriotic. His accusations and statements, however, have sparked a backlash from conservatives tired of Reid's violent and irresponsible rhetoric which, at times, seems to indicate he wants violence against the Bundys and their supporters.