This picture caught my eye over the weekend. It shows Eric Parker taking aim at a group of protesters in Bunkerville, Nevada. Protesting what, you might ask? Cows.
More specifically, they are protesting the Bureau of Land Management's recent confiscation of about 300 head of cattle from Cliven Bundy, a local rancher.
And why would the BLM do such a thing? Well, it's a long story, but the Cliff Notes' version is that Bundy has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land for the past 16 years and the BLM confiscated the cattle because Bundy has ignored multiple court orders and repeatedly failed to pay the $1.2 million in grazing fees he owes American taxpayers.
Bundy disagrees. More than that, he doesn't recognize the authority of the federal government in this issue even though the federal government owns the land Bundy illegally grazes his cattle on (and 87% of Nevada for that matter). In fact, Bundy doesn't even recognize the federal government: "I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada. I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing."
And those fervent anti-government beliefs has turned Bundy into an instant hero in the crazier corners of conservative America.
And that leads us back to the picture. That's because Parker isn't a member of law enforcement, the BLM, ATF, or any state or federal organization for that matter. He's one of hundreds of right wing militia members who flocked to Bunkersville with their ARs and AKs to "defend" Bundy from the government. See, Parker wasn't aiming at the protesters. He was aiming at the law enforcement officers and BLM personnel who were trying to enforce a valid court order and keep the protest from spiraling out of control.
A day later, fearing for the safety of the public and its personnel, the BLM returned Bundy's cattle to de-escalate the situation. Bundy responded by calling for his local sheriff to disarm federal "bureaucrats" and the BLM on Glenn Beck's radio show.
So now we're left with the situation still simmering in the Nevada desert. On one side we have the federal government trying to get the American taxpayers some back pay for Bundy's illegal use of their lands over the past 20 years and on the other we have a group of heavily armed white dudes with a severely shaky understanding of both Nevada history and constitutional law who seem to only be there to provoke another Waco or Ruby Ridge.