States Rights Rebellion
by Patrick J. Buchanan
July 23, 1994
Once again, the spirit of John C. Calhoun stalks the land.
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are
reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people." So
reads our long-forgotten 10th Amendment. Seizing on this
amendment, Western states -- fed up with federal despotism
-- are attempting a rollback of federal power and a rebirth
of states' rights.
Illegal aliens, unfunded federal mandates, control of
land, guns -- these are the issues driving a gathering
California has filed suit demanding the United States
assume full cost of educating, medicating and imprisoning
illegal aliens. The U.S., says California, has ignored its
constitutional duty to protect California from invasion,
allowing her to be overrun by a million illegals every
Alaska -- whose governor, Walter Hickel, won election as
the candidate of a party advocating secession -- has filed
a $29 billion suit charging the U.S. with locking up 100
million acres of Alaska's land in violation of the compact
by which Alaska became a state.
Colorado has passed the 10th Amendment resolution ordering
the U.S. to "cease and desist, effective immediately,
mandates that are beyond the scope of the constitutionally
In Montana, Sheriff Jay Printz refused to enforce the
Brady law mandating background checks on gun buyers. He has
neither the time nor manpower, declared Sheriff Printz,
adding, "We like our guns in Montana... It's not unusual
for a person to have 15 guns or more."
In Billings, U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled in
favor of Printz, striking down that part of the Brady law.
Under the 10th Amendment, ruled the judge, the federal
government cannot force states to allocate resources to
carry out federal responsibilities.
In Graham County, Arizona, Sheriff Richard Mack filed suit
against Brady, saw his suit upheld, and became a folk hero,
leading a parade of 20,000 in a protest against gun laws in
Sheriff Mack has a book coming out in September ,
"From My Cold Dead Fingers,"which he says, "gets into
things like Waco and Bernhard Goetz and how government's
own documentation shows that the safest way to defend
yourself is with a gun.
Like the Sagebrush Rebellion of 15 years ago, this revolt
out of the West threatens to decimate the Democratic Party.
It is being driven by miners, ranchers and loggers who see
a way of life being destroyed by judges and bureaucrats. It
is backed by elected officials fed up with being ordered to
meet the mandates of Congress and by taxpayers enraged at
being robbed of property rights by federal agencies without
Beltway elites may scoff, but this rebellion is growing.
One day it will manifest itself in acts more dramatic than
a handful of sheriffs refusing to carry out Brady. In
Colorado there is talk of the state withholding federal gas
tax revenues from Washington and spending the money
directly on state highways.
In Catron County, N.M., rhetoric about "taking back
America" has taken on real meaning. When the Forest Service
curbed timber harvests to protect the habitat of Mexican
spotted owl, and started reviewing whether cattle grazing
was endangering the range land, county officials drew up
their own plan for managing the land. Forest rangers who
tried to cut ranchers' livestock grazing permits were
threatened with arrest.
"The Forest Service has been run off at gunpoint," says
Susan Schock, a silver City, N.M., environmentalist.
"They've turned the forest over to the county."
"If we didn't have the plan, there would have been
bloodshed," says rancher Dick Manning. "Things have gotten
to that point."
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who is prosecuting Mr.
Clinton's "War against the West," chuckles at the
"sovereign nation of Catron County." But Catron's defiance
has inspired a nationwide "county movement," enlisting
county and state governments in the battle against
People for the West!, a new grassroots organization, calls
for increased, not diminished, development of the 500
million acres of federal land. It now has 30,000 members,
has doubled its chapters in the last year, and claims
credit for the Senate filibuster that forced Commissar
Babbitt to retreat from his proposed hike in grazing fees.
Whose land is it, anyway? that is the question. And
support is building behind a movement to have most of those
500 million acres of federal land turned over to the
states, leaving decisions about the use and preservation of
that land to the people who care most about it -- the
people who live on it!
The 10th Amendment rebellion is a cause that populists and
conservatives ought not only to get behind but out in front
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