Leading gun rights advocate said federal involvement in ongoing and potential civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, no matter how well-intended, causes unnecessary intimidation of American citizens.
In advance of a pending grand jury decision in the police shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, Missouri Gov. Jeremiah W. “Jay” Nixon issued an executive order last week declaring a 30-day State of Emergency.
In the order, Nixon directed the Adjutant General of the Missouri National Guard to compel into active service such portions of the militia that he deems necessary to protect life and property and assist civilian authorities. The National Guard is a joint activity of each state and the Department of Defense, which includes components of the Army and Air Force.
Pratt said there are many Americans not really cognizant to the idea that Washington is involved in too many areas. “It is a shame when the fragility of the public order is such they think the feds is our only alternative.”
ABC News is reporting that close to 100 additional Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have been sent to Ferguson to assist law enforcement as they prepare for potential unrest, he said.
The more preferable way to attempt to solve any challenge to the public would be for sheriffs to swear-in volunteers to swell up their posse, instead of turning to Washington, he said. “I think that is a very lawful and constitutional way to approach the problem.”
If we accept the notion it is okay to involve the National Guard, than we decline to accept that the sheriff is the top cop of the county, he said. “I would much rather have seen the headline that says the sheriff is actively recruiting and training deputies.”
Pratt, who has served as executive director of GOA for over 30 years, said when people are locally involved in protecting their own county, they have an investment to act in a responsible fashion because it involves where they live. “Volunteer deputies certainly would not look like an occupied force.”
GOA has 300,000 national members dedicated to promoting the Second Amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.
Police militarization is an increasing problem, said Pratt. “The militarization of the police function is something we should do everything we can to stay away from – this is a very bad development.”
Even with local police departments and some sheriff’s departments, he said there is a tendency to purchase items from the federal government that look like MRAPs. “And once you have a military toy, the likelihood is that you are going to want to at least deploy it, if not actually use it.”
The good news is there are plenty of sheriffs nationwide who are organizing efforts to oppose federal infringement in local law enforcement, he said. “One example is Elkhart County Sheriff Bradley D. “Brad” Rogers of Indiana – he understands that the sheriffs can keep the feds under control.”
Rogers, who is a Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association member and lifetime member of GOA, stood-up to the federal government causing them to back-off a county resident being targeted by the Food and Drug Administration, said Pratt.
“A farmer who produces raw milk was being mercifully harassed by the FDA,” he said. “The FDA do not have any explanation for it, they just do not like crude, raw milk.” The farmer, fearful that the federal government were getting ready to confiscate his equipment – which would put him out of business – went to his county sheriff for help, he said.
“Sheriff Rogers went over to his farm – he looked it over – and satisfied himself that the farmer was not getting bacteria in the pulp,” he said. “The Sheriff then contacted the head of the FDA legal department, and said if you put another foot on this farmer’s land he would have him arrested.” Their initial response was that they would arrest the sheriff, said Pratt.
“That was over two years ago and the farmer is still producing raw milk; still crossing state lines; and the feds have not made a move because there is a sheriff there.”
Protecting the citizens from federal overreach was an important issue in Roger’s 2014 reelection campaign, he said. “He was just reelected with a 75-percent majority of the vote.” GOA’s endorsement of Rogers was also an issue in the campaign, he said. “He was accused of being a radical nut job because of our endorsement.”
Both issues obviously worked in the sheriff’s favor, he said. “There are some good things going on but we are not going to see them in the evening news.”
Pratt, who is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said the federal government has contributed to the implementation of militarization of police work, and the people are not all aware that this is unnecessary, federal overreach. “There has got to be ways of keeping the peace without looking like an occupied force – that is just not America.”