Wyoming Forced to Suspend Tax Collections at Gun Shows

In early July, the Department of Revenue in Wyoming suspended sales tax collections at gun shows because of increasing animosity toward the state's field tax agents that jeopardized their safety. The story in the Casper Star Tribune:

Dan Noble, director of the department's excise tax division, said Friday that an incident at a gun show triggered the decision. He added, however, that resistance from gun show sponsors and participants has been a recurring problem statewide. "I have 10 field reps throughout the state, and every one of them has experienced some animosity," he said. "Folks are nervous anyway because there are guns there. I don't want to put my people at risk."

Guns shows, like craft shows, are required to set up temporary sales tax licenses but do not have to pay the $60 fee for a permanent sales tax license. The department's field tax representatives attend the shows and ask the sponsors to distribute tax forms to the sellers who, in turn, are required to collect and remit sales tax to the Department of Revenue.

Noble said the tax agents have never had a problem with compliance from the craft shows, for example. "We tend to have more trouble at gun shows than any place," Noble said Friday in an interview. "This last incident was something I felt kind of crossed the line and, because of it I have suspended our activity in trying to collect this until we can get a better way of approaching it." He said the "climate" has changed and some of the gun show people are "fairly extreme."

Noble said he didn't want to identify the show where the incident took place because the problem has been statewide. Anthony Bouchard, executive director of the Wyoming Gun Owners' Association, said the only confrontation he knew of was at a gun show in Pine Bluffs. The gun show participant involved was an "in your face" type, he said, adding that he did not believe there was any threat made. "I think they're trying to create a political climate, to make it sound like a bigger thing than it is," he said.

The position of his group, Bouchard said, is that the state shouldn't charge sales tax on gun and ammunition sales because of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. "Everybody's on edge," said John Wise, director of the Pine Bluffs Shooting Association and of the gun show.

Identifying himself as a "tea partier and damned proud of it," Wise said Friday that people are angry at the federal government over health care reform and other actions. Wise said he was sitting at the front desk during the April gun show at Pine Bluffs when a participant got into a confrontation with a state sales tax representative. The tax agent called for backup from the Pine Bluffs Police Department.

Wise said the police officer intervened, the tax agent left and no charges were filed. He said he thought both men had "short fuses." Wise said that individual gun owners who pay $30 to rent a table at a gun show so they can sell a couple of guns should not have to collect sales tax for the state. Bouchard said he will personally work on legislation to exempt gun show sales from the state's sales tax.

Check any of the far-right blogs and you will find regular calls for "patriot uprisings" or comments that in effect call for "patriotic citizens" to get ready for the coming war. On Free Republic, the comments on this story ranged from "our tea-partying Bostonian ancestors would be proud" to "the government...any government...absolutely needs to fear the people."

These comments can perhaps be dismissed the insane rantings of anonymous conservative malcontents but the fact remains that we are witnessing a break down in order coupled with the re-emergence from the shadows of fringe right wing anarchism that rejects the established prerogatives of government in part or even the wholesale denial that any law applies to them. This is more than Grove Norquist's forty year anti-tax crusade though it can be argued that such behaviour is the culmination of decades of anti-government rhetoric by the more 'mainstream' right even if such currents run deep in the American psyche. 

It bears reminding that Glenn Beck's tirades against the Tides Foundation, a non-profit collective center based in the Presidio, led Byron Williams, an unemployed anti-government zealot on parole for bank robbery, to load up his mother's Toyota Tundra with guns, strap on his body armor and drive from the Tuolumne County home he shared with his mother and head to the Bay Area to kill workers at the American Civil Liberties Union and at the Tides Foundation. By causing bloodshed, Byron Williams had hoped to "start a revolution." Tragedy was only averted because Mr. Williams was stopped by California Highway Patrol officers for speeding and driving erratically on westbound Interstate 580 west of Grand Avenue in Oakland. Even so it took a 12-minute gunbattle with officers to subdue the heavily armed Williams.

Then there is the bizarre case of Michael Fenter, a 40 year old marine carpenter who with his wife of 20 years owned a 40-acre farm on the Olympic Peninsula up in Washington State that produced wool, honey and produce using sustainable practices for sale at local farmers markets. Fenter, who had no prior criminal record and whose farm wasn't struggling, was arrested in February 2009 after robbing a bank in Tacoma. He was suspected in a string of bank robberies down as far south as Sacramento and San Francisco. When Fenter was booked into the Pierce County jail as he claimed his name was Patrick Henry, the Revolutionary War hero most glorified by the right wing for his anti-Federalist views. 

Fenter's activities came as a shock to his wife who had no idea of her husband's second if ultimately unsuccessful career. The motive for Mr. Fenter's crime spree was wholly political. What set him off was the government bailout of the bank sector. Fenter said robbing banks wasn't to get money for himself or his family. Instead, he did it because he was a "true patriot." The money, he said, went to fund the cause of liberty.

"What I am for is real justice, real truth, and real accountability within our system of government," he said. "The money was used and is probably currently being used to get to the truth."

In July, Michael Fenter was sentenced to ten years in Federal prison and has yet to disclose to whom he distributed the hundreds of thousands of dollars he stole at gunpoint.

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates 300,000 people are part of a so called "sovereign-citizen movement " across the United States. Members of sovereign citizen movement don't recognize the authority of the US government, state government or even local-- whether that means paying taxes or providing a driver's license when a police officer stops you. In recent months, members of the sovereign-citizen movement have made the national news.

In March the FBI raided sites in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and suburban Chicago arresting nine members of the Hutaree militia, a Midwestern Christian militia group. In the Federal indictment against the leaders of the group, the government called the Hutaree militia an “anti-government extremist organization” intending to “levy war against the United States.” The group is charged with five counts, including seditious conspiracy and attempts to use weapons of mass destruction, which refers to the allegation in the indictment that Hutaree members planned to use roadside bombs. If convicted on a weapons of mass destruction charge, the nine face life in prison. While the case hasn't gained much attention outside Detroit, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website has taken up their defence accusing Eric Holder's Justice Department of manufacturing "an imminent right-wing extremist threat for political purposes."

In two incidents in April and May, a Tennessee sovereign citizen, Walter France Fitzpatrick III, and a Georgia sovereign citizen, Darren Huff, were arrested in connection with attempts to make citizen arrests of various local officials in Monroe County, Tennessee. Huff represents a trifecta of intersects: he is active in the sovereign-citizen movement, he's a pastor in Christian Identity movement - a movement of various loosely interconnected extreme right wing Christain sects that hold virulent racist and anti-Semitic tenets - and  he's a member of the Oathkeepers, the latest group of the paranoid right to rise in the Age of Obama. Founded last April by the Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the Oathkeepers pledge not to follow any order that they deem unconstitutional. Its membership is heavily composed of ex- and present military and law enforcement officials. The group is officially non-partisan but leans toward Paulite libertarianism coupled with fears that the government is at any time about to set up concentration camps.

Darren Huff was driving from Georgia to Tennessee a black in pickup emblazoned with the Oath Keepers logo - they do like to pretend - when he was pulled over by the Tennessee Highway Patrol on traffic violations.  Armed with a pistol and an assault rifle, Huff was headed to Madisonville, Tennessee to prevent the trial of the aforementioned Walter Francis Fitzpatrick III. Huff has been charged with "traveling in interstate commerce with intent to incite a riot and transporting in commerce a firearm in furtherance of a civil disorder." Fitzpatrick, in turn, a retired Navy commander who is a leader in the group American Grand Jury (AGJ), has earlier targeted a grand jury foreman because he refused to investigate President Obama for fraud. The AGJ seeks to indict Obama for treason on the grounds that he is not a US citizen. Fitzpatrick was charged with disorderly conduct, inciting to riot, disrupting a meeting and resisting arrest, according to the news report.

In April 2010, a sovereign citizen group calling itself Guardians of the Free Republics issued ultimatums to all 50 governors to vacate their offices within 72 hours. A shadowy group, the Guardians of the Free Republics believe the US government is a corporate imposter put in place by corrupt bankers as part of the New Deal in 1933. Its leader is Sam Kennedy, a Texas talk-radio host but another of the group's "elders" is Clive Boustred, whom Mother Jones describes as "a British-educated former South African soldier with an apparent knack for 'anti-terrorist warfare.'" The group's Restore American Plan seeks a return to de jure, or original, governance, stripping Washington of its ability to tax citizens' income and dismantling agencies such as the FBI. According to Los Angeles Times, the "group's philosophy mingles with the anti-Federal Reserve mantra espoused by followers of US Rep. Ron Paul of Texas as well as with anti-tax advocates."

The most serious episode is the more recent case of Jerry and Joe Kane who were stopped by police in West Memphis, Arkansas on May 20th in what if not for the outcome would have been a routine traffic stop. Instead, the routine traffic stop in Arkansas turned into an extraordinarily violent shooting between police and the father and son pair who were part of "sovereign-citizens" movement. When it ended both the Kanes and two policemen were dead.

Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center using the Jerry and Joe Kane story as a back drop write on the sovereign-citizen movement. It's strongly recommended because I suspect that what SPLC is describing is just the tip of the anti-government iceberg.


Tags: Sovereign Citizen Movement, Glenn Beck, Oathkeepers, Christian Right, Wyoming Politics, right wing extremism, right wing extremism (all tags)




What is happening to our democracy and public comity? Used to be we had political disagreements, sometimes even very strong ones, but we never saw so many turn to "Second Amendment remedies" (except for perhaps the abolitionist movement before the Civil War) the way people are doing today to try to force their views on the rest of us.

Why is it that the moment someone expresses a differing opinion than you, they suddenly start calling you unAmerican, a commie, a fascist, a socialist, a marxist, or even all of the above at one time (as if such an amalgam could even exist!)?

We need to get back to the days when we vociferously argued our politics, but did so with respect and dignity. We need to stop thinking that people we disagree with need to be locked up in internment camps, shot, hung, beaten to death, or expelled from the country. A democracy is a collection of voices that come together, argue their viewpoints and platforms, and then vote to elect their government representatives -- using the majority vote as the winner of the election.

Today we have many, many people who feel they have a right to impose their minority view on the nation because they cannot accept the results of a democratic election that didn't go their way. This is not only insane, it is dangerous. History has shown that all previous "empires" -- whether ancient (Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantine, Mayan, Aztec) or modern (Soviet Union) -- are not destined to last forever, and even less so when they begin to divide and fight themselves from within. There is a reason why our Founding Fathers made it very difficult to amend the Constitution. They knew that otherwise the prevailing whims of people spurred on by demagogues and charlatans could destroy the fragile compromise they forged in founding this nation. Opinions in vogue in one generation may garner temporary majoritarian views, but could be detrimental to the stability of the nation in the long term. That is why we as a nation eventually outlawed slavery, the subjugation of women and Native Americans, and prohibitions against interracial marriage. None of these things were in the original language of our Constitution, but it permitted the revision of the document to reflect changing values, mores, and societal norms. 

It is the beauty of our Constitution that each succeeding generation of Americans can adapt to the progress of ideas and philosophies without scrapping the basic tenets of law and governance that have united and preserved us as a people for over 200 years. We cannot allow these antidemocratic forces to challenge the stability of our union by deciding which laws (if any) they will obey and which they will not, and which means they may elect to use, including violence and armed resistance, to front that opposition. We do so at our own peril and that of our beloved Republic and democracy. Everyone has a right to express their views about our government, and to take whatever reasonable, democatic measures they may think necessary to correct it -- short of armed insurrection as long as the majority remains willing to follow the laws of the nation and abide by the decisions of our courts. When we stop doing that and allow these people to decide for themselves what laws they will or will not obey, then we are beginning that quick descent into anarchy and mob rule. That will also be the day that the end of our great democracy arrives as well.

We need to find a way to get back to respecting each other and our different views without presuming that violence is the answer when someone doesn't see things your way. Things are getting worse on this front and it is time the majority, from either end of the political spectrum, Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat, and all in between, need to make it clear that we expect our citizens to respect our democracy and to work within the laws, rights, and priviledges spelled out in our Constitution and the various governmental jurisdictions it has established. We do not have a right to replace those entities with those of our own devising without the majority consent of "We the People."  Doing that would be the real threat to the Constitution and to our great democracy.

by mcarnes 2010-08-13 02:35AM | 0 recs
RE: Unbelievable!

And you are part of the problem. No liberal every threatened the life or safety of conservatives during the Bush Administration. The worst was basically some guy in berkley saying the Marines suck. But you have done the old pox on both their houses shit.


Conservatives are anti-American traitors, whether it makes you feel icky and partisan is irrelevent.

by bay of arizona 2010-08-13 03:05AM | 0 recs


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