Monday, January 04, 2016

My take on the Oregon protests

This story starts in 2001, when Dwight Hammond and Steven Hammond set fires on federal land that burned 127 acres. They were convicted of arson, and a judge gave Dwight a three month sentence and Steven a one year sentence. The defendants claim that this was to control an invasive species, the prosecutors claim that it was to cover up illegal poaching.

Even if the Hammonds were telling the truth, I can't really condone setting fires on federal land as a form of pest control. In my opinion, arson is worse than bank robbery. Most bank robbers just slide a note over the counter, the tellers follow their training, and the FDIC reimburses the bank for any cash that isn't recovered. Arsonists are more reckless and destructive, causing more property damage and risk to human life than bank robbers. But the mandatory minimum sentence for arson is 5 years, while the minimum sentence for bank robbery is 10 years.

The Hammonds received less than minimum sentences and served their time. But an appeals court ruled that they should have received longer sentences, and that they should go back to prison. While I would agree that they should have received 5 year sentences in the first place, I also feel that if you are charged, convicted, and serve the original sentence, the government should leave you alone unless you commit another crime.  I think that the law should err on the side of the defendant throughout the entire process. But that isn't what the law requires. The law requires that the Hammonds go back to prison.

People do have a right to protest prison sentences if they feel that the sentences are unfair. But they don't have a right to take over a government building. I would much prefer that this standoff end with no bloodshed. But if these protesters use lethal force to resist arrest, then the moral responsibility for what happens next falls on them.

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