By Jenny Neyman
Federal government, take heed: Alaskans stick to their guns.
That was the overwhelming sentiment of a Second Amendment rally held at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School on March 4. Though the speakers had various backgrounds, different areas of interest and, at times, somewhat differing calls to action, all were united in advocating resistance against any potential federal action to enact gun bans or other restrictive regulations on firearm ownership.
“Your right to self-defense is something that both the state of Alaska and the U.S. Constitution recognize as something they won’t mess with. … Well, you know that they are in complete and utter defiance,” said rally organizer Bob Bird, of Nikiski, a teacher at Nikiski Middle-High School and former candidate for U.S. Senate.
Bird has helped put on several Second Amendment events on the central Kenai Peninsula in the last four years, including open carry days in Soldotna, attended by U.S. Rep. Ron Young, and a previous rally at KCHS in March 2010 that featured representation from Alaska’s Citizens Militia, based in Nikiski, and Schaeffer Cox, then representing the Peacemakers Militia he founded in Fairbanks. Cox has since been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder — against U.S. employees and law enforcement officers — and sentenced to nearly 26 years in federal prison. No militia representation was featured at this year’s rally.
Much of the message of the previous rally was revived, particularly that the federal government is running roughshod over individual and state rights.
“George Washington said that, ‘Government, like fire, is a fearful servant and a deadly master.’ If we allow the government to master us, we’re dead,” Bird said.
Speaker after speaker, followed by comments by audience members who numbered over 300, supported the idea that Alaska and its residents need to stand up to the federal government should it attempt to enact gun restrictions, such as any that have been discussed since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.
“We must draw a well-defined line in the sand and never back up no matter what is said or done. We must be willing to die to protect our right to keep and bear arms no matter what, because if we ever let anyone take our guns away then we have also died with no means to defend ourselves or our families,” said Seymour Mills, of Sterling, introduced by Bird as a law and governmental scholar.
Mills said that he began his activism in 1968 while living in Kodiak, gathering petition signatures to protest the Gun Control Act of 1968.
“I have never stopped fighting the government’s ongoing attempt to disarm us ever since, and I will never stop until my dying breath. If you ever allow the government to take away any of our guns — no matter what those guns might be, no matter what the reason might be — from any one of us, we will become slaves to a totalitarian government that our ancestors spilled their blood to prevent. We must make absolutely no compromises whatsoever to our constitutionally secured right to keep and bear arms,” he said.
In particular, citizens should not participate in any attempts to have owners register their guns, as that’s the first step to confiscation, Mills said. Also, he urged listeners to contact their legislators to oppose any modification to mental health laws that would impose restrictions on firearms ownership.
“Mental health laws are fully as dangerous as gun laws because then they can diagnose your mental health to disarm you,” Mills said.
Justin Giles, a former Marine and combat veteran, of Wasilla, representing the Oath Keepers organization, couched his support of the right to keep and bear arms in terms of chilling world events.
Giles spoke of instances of “democide” — the murder of innocent citizens by their government — in the 20th century perpetrated by what he termed as Marxist regimes, such as Mao Tse-tung-created regime in China and Pol Pot, of Cambodia.
“The mass graves of the 20th-century Marxists are filled with citizens who obeyed gun laws, and the citizens were put there by cops and soldiers who were simply following orders,” Giles said.
“Why should we care so much about this Marxism? It’s critical. We need to understand the nature of the beast that we’re facing,” he said, adding that people with power and influence in U.S. government today have been involved in Marxistlike activities.
“It’s important to understand the nature of what we’re up against, and the nature of who we are. Sometimes good, forgiving Christian folk tend to be overly forgiving, overly timid. Understand the nature of what we’re up against here, that’s my hope,” Giles said.
“I’m concerned about what I’m seeing in the country, I don’t like it one bit. I’m seeing and hearing things said since this horrible tragedy (at Sandy Hook) that happened in Conneticut that have got me wanting peace. I’ve seen war and because I want peace I think it’s important that we know who we are and we know who they — who are asking us to disarm — are,” he said.
He is heartened by Americans’ response to recent talk of gun laws, and the statement that such a response makes to those in federal government who would seek to restrict or ban firearms in the country.
“Since that time (of the shooting at Sandy Hook) U.S. citizens have purchased enough firearms to equip both the entire Chinese army and Indian armies combined,” he said, to a burst of applause from the audience. “…We’ve been arming ourselves and we’ve been talking tough. We’ve made it known, ‘Don’t tread on me. If you ignore the rattle, you’ll get the fangs.’”
Keepers of the Constitution
Cooling down from these fiery exhortations, though speaking with no less resolve, other presenters offered recommendations of what means resistance can take. In a departure from the cheer-inducing “don’t tread on me” comments was talk of something more academic — nullification, the principle that states have the right to invalidate any federal law or action that the states view as unconstitutional.
“Nullification is the idea that the state will stand between the federal government and the citizens when the federal government has gone out of bounds,” Bird said.
Much as a parent disciplining an unruly child, nullification holds that states created the federal government through a compact with each other, and, thus, gave it its powers, and so can take those powers away.
“The states cannot be expected to sit back and allow themselves to be destroyed by their own creation,” said Dr. Thomas Woods, author of “Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century,” who spoke to the audience via a live Internet video connection.
“Nullification is the principle that the states have the power to determine the constitutionality of measures passed by the federal government and they have the power to refuse to enforce or, indeed, to prevent the enforcement of any law that violates the Constitution,” he said.
Court rulings have routinely rejected this principle, finding that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution elevates federal laws over those of the states, and that Article III gives the federal judiciary the final power to interpret the Constitution.
For supporters of nullification, having the federal courts be the authority on what is and is not constitutional is particularly irksome.
“The federal courts are part of the problem. The problem is the federal government, so how can having recourse to the federal government’s courts be the solution? We cannot look to the courts to determine for us what our fundamental rights are,” Woods said.
As Bird put it, “Having the federal courts determine the constitutionality of the law is like holding all seven games of the World Series in Yankee Stadium and having all of the umpires ex-Yankees, and that is in fact not the way the system was meant to be.”
Woods said that the nullification approach is gaining steam, as frustration with the standard forms of political activism — elections, distributing information, the court system, etc. — are not producing the desired results.
“A lot of people who do believe in the constitutional republic of the Founding Fathers are feeling frustrated. I think they feel like we’ve tried all different means to keep the federal government limited … (and) it doesn’t seem to have done any good. The federal government continues to grow larger and larger over time. So nullification has captured the imagination of some people simply because it’s something different, it’s something that hasn’t been tried over time,” Woods said.
In Alaska, nullification takes the shape of House Bill 69, introduced by Speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, which states that any federal gun law or action would be invalid in Alaska if it restricted semi-automatic firearms or magazines, or required the registration of firearms or magazines, and that any federal agent who attempted to enforce such federal laws would be subject to prosecution by the state on misdemeanor charges. The bill has passed the House and moved to the Senate.
And House Bill 83 calls for the House and Senate Judiciary committees to create “nullification bills” declaring void and unenforceable in Alaska any federal statute, regulation or order that the state’s attorney general believes to be adopted unconstitutionally.
Alaskans should support such legislation, Bird and others exhorted, including Kendell Kroeker, a representative to the state House in Wyoming. The Wyoming Legislature recently considered and rejected a bill similar to Alaska’s HB 69.
“The only way to stop the bully is to draw a line in the sand and tell them ‘no’ and if he crosses that line you punch him as hard as you can in the nose and you see what happens. And, frankly, that’s what we need to do as states is take that stand and tell the federal government, ‘We’re not going to let them overstep their constitutional bounds’ and we’re going to push back and see what happens,” Kroeker said, via a live video Internet connection.
He wishes Alaska well in its pursuit of nullification legislation.
“I hope you guys can get your bill through so next year I have a state to point to and say, ‘Hey, look, other states are doing this and we need to stand with Alaska,’” he said.
Calls to action
The other speaker at the rally, Anchorage gun-rights attorney and former National Rifle Association vice president, Wayne Anthony Ross, spoke on what should be done to protect against future school shootings. It isn’t passing gun-control laws, he said, making the point that shooters already are not stopped by the many existing laws they break.
“These so-called leaders somehow they think that passing another gun law banning guns from law-abiding citizens would protect us from something like the recent school shooting,” Ross said. … “The only people a gun-ban law would impact are law-abiding citizens like you and me. A gun-ban law would only serve to cripple our ability to protect ourselves and our families. I don’t think these leaders truly care. In fact, I suspect that’s what they want — to remove our ability to defend ourselves and defend our rights.”
He instead advocated for better enforcement of the laws that do exist to keep guns out of the hands of people convicted of certain crimes, and to improve mental health services.
“Instead of expanding (background) checks we need to improve the system by improving the mental health records of personas actually adjudicated with dangerous mental health problems or involuntarily committed to national institutions. Get them the treatment they need,” Ross said.
Alaska also should pursue having armed guards in schools, he said.
“We need to end the so-called gun-free zones in our schools which simply attract cowardly attacks on innocent people who cannot defend themselves because of such laws,” he said.
Alaska is ripe to be a leader in protecting gun freedoms, he said.
“I’ve always said we’re really blessed to live in Alaska. Outside they’ve got liberals who want to take away our right to keep and bear arms and conservatives who want to protect the right to keep and bear arms. In Alaska, a liberal is someone who carries a .357 or smaller and a conservative carries a .41, .44 or .45,” Ross said.
Bird expanded on Ross’ call to action, suggesting that rally attendees, among other things, contact legislators to support nullification legislation, advocate that administrators and faculty be allowed to possess firearms in Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools and that Kenai Peninsula College campuses be subject to the same concealed carry rules as other public spaces in the state (firearms are not allowed on campus), request that the borough and its communities add “Gun Friendly Community” signage and that people come up with their own ideas for activism.
“A rally like this is not for you to cheer and then go home and forget about it. A rally like this means that you have to help us,” Bird said.
“I can’t expect you to agree with everything that’s here tonight. It is the start, it is the beginning, it is starting to learn that there is something other than writing your congressman or begging the government to start obeying the Constitution,” he said.