MINOT, N.D. — In 1983, Gordon Kahl left a Posse Comitatus meeting in Medina, North Dakota, and ended up in a gunfight with U.S. Marshals attempting to apprehend him for a parole violation.

The violent conflict ended with two cops dead, three injured, and an ugly blight on our beautiful state's history.

Kahl, on the run, would end his life (and that of a county sheriff) in another shootout in Arkansas.

Members of the Posse Comitatus, an extreme populist movement, believe, among other things, that there is no legitimate form of government above the county level. The county sheriff is the top government official, as they see it, and those not abiding by the people's will are to be lynched in public. The name comes from the Posse Comitatus Act, a 19th-century federal law (how ironic) intended to draw a line between the military and domestic law enforcement.

In that context, consider what's happening in Ward County, which is home to Minot and this humble correspondent.

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A petition with more than 7,000 signatures (as a point of reference, consider that there were only 6,232 ballots cast in Minot's last mayoral election) has asked the Ward County Commission to declare their jurisdiction a Second Amendment Sanctuary County where federal law enforcement officials would be arrested for trying to enforce federal gun laws.

A similar petition about illegal immigration has also been presented to the commissioners who have, on the whole, done their best to water down the more extreme elements of the proposals. Like, you know, the whole "deputies arresting federal cops" thing.

It's one thing to support gun ownership — I believe in constitutional carry, and I have a safe full of guns of my own — but it's a long leap from there to cops arresting other cops over gun control laws or immigration policies.

These petitions were all the rage at a recent gun raffle fundraiser staged by the Minot Area Republicans. My father, who is a Republican but generally apolitical, attended.

"That s--- was friggin' scary," was his comment to me afterward.

Forum News Service file photo 
Wanted posters seeking Gordon Kahl like this one were posted after a shootout 30 years ago between Kahl and law enforcement officers
Forum News Service file photo Wanted posters seeking Gordon Kahl like this one were posted after a shootout 30 years ago between Kahl and law enforcement officers

This man, who earned a Silver Star in Vietnam, arrested Italian mafiosos, crank-addled Hells Angels bikers, and serial killer Robert Hansen, during his time as a cop.

For him to be unsettled is unsettling.

The event, where the featured speaker was Bastiat Caucus founder Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, consisted of a lot of heavy breathing about militias and paranoid ranting about the federal government.

Paranoia about the federal government is not entirely unwarranted. The Biden administration has issued a vaccine mandate for American employers, for instance, a clear overreach of executive power and a deeply unhelpful policy for those of us who have been trying to persuade people to get vaccinated.

Biden needed a distraction from the debacle in Afghanistan, so, in a cynical maneuver straight from the Donald Trump playbook, he, or whoever is making the decisions for that doddering figurehead, poured gasoline on the already smoldering vaccine imbroglio.

That's worth being upset about.

That's a fight the conservative movement should engage in.

But, again, healthy skepticism over government overreach is one thing.

Trying to get your county government to effectively secede is quite another.

One can feel that income taxes are too high, for example, without believing, as Kahl did, that income taxes are illegal.

Our communities, our states, and our nation need conservatives. We need serious-minded, right-of-center leaders who will argue for hitting the brakes on government growth. Who will promote finding efficiencies in the government we need. Who will promote equality of opportunity and individualism. Who will recognize that government isn't the solution for every problem and is often the problem in the first place.

What we're getting, increasingly, in North Dakota and many other places around the country, are Gordon Kahl Republicans.

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.