Perspectives: That’s why we have the Second Amendment

OPINION – This past weekend, there was very nearly a gun battle pitting private citizens intent on protecting their rights against a corrupt political machine.

It wouldn’t be the first time such an event was necessary.

Few people are familiar with the Battle of Athens that took place in 1946 in McMinn County in Eastern Tennessee. McMinn County had long been under the control of a corrupt political boss named Paul Cantrell.

Cantrell had been elected sheriff during the 1930s and presided over a reign of bribery, financing his department through false arrests, and maintaining power through voting fraud.

To prevent voting fraud, Tennessee state law mandated that ballot boxes be shown to be empty prior to the election. It also required poll-watchers and banned armed law enforcement from polling places to prevent voter intimidation. Ballots were to be counted in a public place where any voter could watch. Cantrell ignored the election laws with impunity.

There could be no accountability to the voters as long as he controlled the election process. It was akin to having the power to write his own laws.

When Cantrell was elected to the state senate in 1942, his equally power-hungry chief deputy Pat Mansfield was elected sheriff in his place.

In 1946, Cantrell decided to run for sheriff again. But this time, a number of recently returned veterans who were fed up with the official abuse decided to run a non-partisan all-GI ticket against him.

They promised to ensure honest elections and to clean up their county’s politics. For years, they had asked for state or federal election monitors to stop the fraudulent voting practices. Their reasoning for making a stand was explained by one of their candidates as follows:

The principals that we fought for in this past war do not exist in McMinn County. We fought for democracy because we believe in democracy but not the form we live under in this county.

On Election Day, Cantrell brought in an army of 200 armed deputies that proceeded to brutalize and threaten the GI poll-watchers. A black voter named Tom Gillespie was beaten by a deputy and told he could not vote that day. When he persisted, Cantrell’s hired goon shot and wounded him.

At this point the situation was becoming desperate. Armed deputies in the polling places detained the GI poll watchers while Sheriff Mansfield took the ballot boxes to the jail to be counted.

The ex-GIs faced the choice of defending their rights against the murderous behavior of Cantrell’s men or submitting to their supposed authority. They chose to stand up for their rights.

They visited nearby National Guard and State Guard armories and secured weapons and ammunition then headed for the jail to rescue the ballot boxes. At the jail, Cantrell’s men opened fire on them and a firefight ensued for the next half hour or so.

Though numerous shots were fired, only a few individuals were wounded; none of them fatally.

Cantrell convinced the Governor to activate the National Guard to come rescue the deputies who were hunkered down in the jail. But the Guard never came.

Eventually, the GIs used dynamite to gain access to the front doors of the jail. The deputies inside surrendered and the ballot boxes were rescued. Cantrell managed to slip away in the confusion, but the ex-GIs posted guards at the jail and then cleaned and returned the rifles to the armories.

When the ballots were honestly counted, Cantrell had lost by 379 votes.

The decision to take up arms in defense of their individual rights was not sparked by a personal vendetta against Cantrell. It was based in a desire for honest representative government.

When faced with ruthless intimidation and threats of lethal force by individuals acting under the color of law, it became necessary to negate that force with firearms in the hands of private citizens.

Remember, the ex-GIs had petitioned for outside help repeatedly to ensure fair and honest elections. It was help that never came.

In the end, the rule of law was upheld—not by the self-serving political machine—but by a group of citizens who took their rights seriously enough to fight for them.

This is the primary reason for which the Second Amendment exists. It is not based in a sporting purpose or a hobby. It is the final resort to compel obedience when government officials at any level become abusive.

The gospel of Big Brother conveniently ignores this principle. But not everyone has forgotten.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2014, all rights reserved

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28 Comments

  • Brian April 14, 2014 at 9:43 am

    McMinn County is exactly why we have the 2nd Amendment. Read the Declaration of Independence, it’s pretty clear. The 2nd Amendment was to make sure that future generations could do exactly what our Founding Fathers had done: used the absolute smallest amount of force needed to maintain their God-given rights. We need a lot MORE of what just happened, not less. Enough with the tyranny from above and apathy from below.

  • JLA April 14, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Seriously? I don’t think enforcing laws about grazing on public lands compares in any way to rampant armed abuse of election laws nor abuse of the office of sheriff.
    If Mr. Bundy had paid his fees like all the other ranchers, none of this would have happened. It’s not a range war, it’s not a “corrupt political machine” it’s one jerk deciding he’s immune to rules and laws and then inciting a riot and putting a lot of people in danger by inviting an armed confrontation.
    As for Bundy’s claim to have rights because his forefathers grazed the land, ask the native Americans how they feel about that.
    Kudos to the BLM and other law enforcement officers for getting out of a very volatile situation without anyone getting hurt.

    • Brian April 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Seriously? You think this is just about the BLM and Bundy? Read the news! This is happening all over America in an infinite number of ways. The government (federal, county, and often local) are taking away freedoms left and right, taxing and fining freedom into oblivion. Many municipalities are forcing people to rip out gardens just because they are visible from the street, the FDA is shutting down farmers markets because they don’t have industrial grade food handlers permits, veterans are threatened and fined for flying the US flag, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc (etc). The abuses are infinite and the abused are sick of it!

    • McWaynor April 17, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Why don’t I see the same desire to enforce the law keeping illegals from crossing the border? I want to see the same commitment and firepower guarding against people sneaking into this country illegally. This is not about enforcing laws about grazing on public land, this is about the government boot shouting at you to “STOP RESISTING AND COMPLY SIR”. It’s a power grab. Kudos to the BLM and other law enforcement officers that REFUSED TO OBEY THEIR superiors – there were some there that did not raise their weapons. The others can …
      Ed. ellipsis

  • Robb Willie April 14, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Love it. Great story I had not heard before. Thanks Bryan.

  • Kenneth Carlton April 14, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Being a retired Federal Special Agent, I’d like to say I have a unique view of the Bunkerville debacle….I don’t. What I do know, in my 29 year Law Enforcement career, I saw time and time again where federal management proved they could NOT be trusted to the right thing, in regarded to local LE issues. If Bundy was truly a danger to society, the BLM would have secured a warrant for his arrest. They don’t want the true facts to see the light of day. It’s very difficult to separate incompetent management from criminal intent when dealing with the feds.

    • Combat Vet and Democrat April 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      It is good to read a well written, thoughtful post. I believe you may have a point. I am confused that Bundy has been permitted to ignore the law for so many years and I do wonder why. Also, from reading some other posts by people who think and express themselves in complete sentences I have come to the conclusion that Bundy may not have been treated fairly by the BLM. Maybe Bundy should be in jail and whoever in the BLM was in charge of the cattle roundup should be looking for another job. It is a good thing no one was killed; it will be a very bad thing if people think that couldn’t have happened. The BLM rangers and NPS rangers should be proud. If they hadn’t kept their wits about them someone would have died down there south of Mesquite.

      • COMBAT VET AND COSERVATIVE April 15, 2014 at 8:27 am

        COMBAT VET AND DEMOCRAT…….finally you make a coherent and very sensible statement. See what a little research can yield?
        And thank you for your service as well.

  • Matthew Sevald April 14, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I wish I had given my support physically to the Battle of Bunkerville. Now, like that opening speech in the movie “Patton”, all I can tell my grandchildren is, “Well, I shoveled …… in (St. George).” Truly a moment in Freedom that has passed.

  • Native born New Mexican April 14, 2014 at 11:09 am

    The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of rights and the rest of the US Constitution are just words on paper if we are not willing to stand up and take the actions described in the Declaration of Independence in order to preserve our rights and the rule of constitutional law as set fourth by our founding fathers in the bill of rights and the rest of the constitution. Years ago I had a socialist government official I was dealing with tell me that the constitution was just an antiquated piece of paper and as such not relevant any longer. The courts and legal system in this country mostly see the bill of rights and the constitution as a nuisance that has to be gotten around or ignored. The bill of rights was written into the constitution because of the real life experiences of the founding fathers and because of their understanding of past historical abuses of power and authority over people. Human nature does not change. The history of the world is the history of one group of people or another seeking to exercise, control and authority over every one else, mostly in unjust ways. This behavior is the reason for the bill of rights. If people matter, the bill of rights must matter and must at all costs be upheld. I do not relish violence of any sort. I believe strongly that every effort should be made to resolve differences peacefully. Our own civil war is an example of the cost that is paid when that does not happen. That being said; I will at all costs support the God given rights set forth in the bill of rights and I will support the people that I see standing up for those rights. Sadly the second amendment must at times be used to support the whole rest of the bill of rights.
    I was able to join the daughters of the American Revolution because I have a grandfather back in history who was with Washington at Valley Forge. I also had grandfathers who participated in the fighting around Lexington and Concord. My joining the DAR is only vain pride and bragging if I do not take the same stand my ancestors did and support the God given rights set forth by the founders of this country. “Stand your ground.” “Don’t fire unless fired upon: but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” John Parker commander of the Militia in Lexington.

  • Ron April 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I understand the Second Amendment . . . and the others. What I don’t understand is how it applies to some guy who decides he doesn’t have to pay a fee that every other rancher pays. I don’t understand how he has a claim to the land. The land is MY land (OUR land), and I don’t want his cows trampling it. Obviously, some of you do. Why does his so-called right to graze his cows take priority over my right to keep MY public land cow-free? Frankly, this seems like a pretty trite issue to make such a big deal of.

    • Brian April 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      It has little to do with cows, and everything to do with states rights. And frankly, if the states rights battle is lost, all future Constitutional battles are lost with it. Read the Utah Enabling Act (the contract between the federal government and Utah when we became a state). The federal government was supposed to dispose of those lands to benefit Utah, but never has. The feds control more than 65% of Utah. North Dakota became a state at about the same time, and the feds only retained 3% of their land, yet the language in the two Enabling Act’s are almost identical. Guess what? North Dakota is flush with cash for their schools, because they can leverage their natural resources. Utah has THE lowest per-pupil spending in the nation, because we can’t. Again, this is about a lot more than cows.

    • Carl April 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      Agree, to a point. Ron. I like the cows there with the wildlife, but the land needs to be managed according the the Constitution. ref Article IV

  • Les April 14, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Does the 2nd Amendment give individuals the right to create an armed insurrection
    in support of criminals?

    I’m no expert on the Bundy situation, but I know a hell of a lot more than most of these crackpots that have a gun and Flag and hold themselves out to be constitutional saviors with little knowledge of the situation.

    1. Bundy does not own the land, he uses it through an agreement with the BLM.
    2. He owes us the people all taxpayers over $1,000,000 for the use of the public land.
    3. This has been adjudicated in several courts, and the BLM representing the American people have the right to collect, seize, or restrict his cattle from the use of this public land.
    He has refused to pay the Federal government (BLM) because he does not recognize their right to the land. He tried to pay the state of Nevada but they refused to take his payment because it is not state property.
    4. Bundy has claimed a historical right to the property since family has used the grazing and water rights since the late 1870’s. But if you are going to claim use of land you don’t own then the Native American Paiute people had it long before the Bundy’s claim to use of the land.
    5. This problem started back in 1993 when he stopped paying for the rights to use the land and the BLM started adding more restrictions to the land use. So all those people that want to blame president Obama, might want to rethink that line of reasoning. This has moved from the courts and into the enforcement phase for the BLM land use.

    So if Mr Bundy does not have to pay for the use of Federal lands, why should anyone have to pay for anything the Federal Government has control over. May be we should just have a free for all, and if you have a bigger militia you get to control it! Not everything the Federal Government does is bad or unconstitutional!

    So, to have a bunch of knuckleheads from all over the place come down here to support a criminal may not be as patriotic as it sounds, and has an extreme element of stupidity!l!

    • COMBAT VET AND CONSERVATIVE April 15, 2014 at 8:47 am

      “most of these crackpots that have a gun and a flag” are mainly combat experienced veterans who have honorably served their country. And contrary to your belief, they do have the proper understanding of the Constitution, and have a lot of “knowledge of the situation”.
      Keep in mind that the law enforcement arm of the BLM are the true knuckleheads in this situation. Many of them did not even know why they were assigned to that part of Nevada. They were merely told “not to let any trespassers through”. The ones who excersized “extreme stupidity”, where the BLM . This was not and never will be about the cows, grazing fees or public lands. This was ONLY for the control of the peoples rights and freedoms which are garaunteed by the Constitution.

      • Les April 15, 2014 at 9:15 am

        Just one question; who’s land is it? It is not Bundy’s

        Ret. Air Force: 4th Fighter Sq

        • COMBAT VET AND CONSERVATIVE April 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm

          And, as well, it is not the BLM/Government either.

          • Chris April 15, 2014 at 4:07 pm

            only according to you, Bundy and his crackpot followers. Keep In mind that not one court, state or federal, has ever ruled in Bundy’s favor. Bundy loses in court and decides to ignore the rule of law.

    • Shoal Creek April 15, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      Just one question Les: do the laws of nature and of nature’s God give multiple “criminals” and “terrorists” the right to create an armed insurrection? That is exactly what happened in the U.S. Revolution. The supporters of the U.S. Revolution were labeled terrorists, traitors, criminals, and liberal radicals by the government of Great Britain (back then, “liberal” meant less government control, not more).

  • zacii April 14, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    This is one of your better articles.

    I’m going to share a link to it with several people.

  • McMurphy April 14, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    A corrupt political machine in the Bundy / Feds dispute
    Really ?
    Please explain.

  • Tinker Toys April 15, 2014 at 9:58 am

    To all who went down to Bunkerville…. The governmemt had a huge intelligence operation in play. They now know who you are and where you live. I hope your taxes are in order.

    • COMBAT VET AND CONSERVATIVE April 15, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      The government has known all along where everyone who was there, live. We all pay property taxes, vehicle registrations, etc. How can they NOT know where people live? You need to try a better comment than that non-scary stuff you spout.

  • Karen April 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    I doubt that the brave GI’s from the Battle of Athens would have much regard for the likes of Clive Bundy and his family of lawbreakers. Bryan Hyde’s elevation in status of Bundy does a disservice to the heroes of the Battle of Athens. Just because the Bundy people and some nuts pull out their guns doesn’t make them heroes. It makes them thugs.

    • Chris April 15, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Thanks for a rational comment. The U.S. is a nation based on the rule of law. Bundy cannot get the rule of law to go his way, so he resorts to threats of violence instead. We have a perfectly valid recourse in this country to dispute the actions of government–an independent judiciary. Bundy lost in the legal avenues, so he decides to use armed revolt to get his way. That is a total insult to the Constitution that he pretends to revere.

    • makkie April 18, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      What makes those individuals any nuttier than you?
      Who are you?
      One day you will be crying for the protection of those “nuts”.I hope they pass you by when YOU need their help.

  • makkie April 18, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    You have to understand that left wingers like “kkkaren”,love to label anyone they don’t agree with as “nuts”,or “terrorists”.An OFTEN used tactic by the lefties.So often used its worn out.Anyone that owns guns is now a “gun nut”,or a “redneck”.
    Any more descriptive phrases to toss around KKKaren?

  • shd April 20, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Why aren’t the people here illegally, that are “grazing” on federal land, rounded up and deported since they owe us the tax payers multiple millions of dollars?

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