By all accounts, Arizona rancher and NRA Life member Robert Krentz was a great guy-the kind of guy you'd like to have as a friend and neighbor.
A quiet, humble man, Krentz lived his dream along the Grand Canyon State's southern border, raising kids and ranching on the land that had been in his family for more than a century.
"He was always kind and he was always fair," said Krentz's son Frank, who is also an NRA Life member. "It didn't matter what time of night it was, if you called him and said that you needed five gallons of gas or a tire, or to come help on a well. We drove in the middle of one night to pick up our neighbors. Their truck broke down 400 miles north of where we were. He and I loaded up and drove all night to pick them up, and he didn't even hesitate about anything like that.
"He always seemed to think about other people first."
"Rob and I had three children," said Susan Krentz, Robert's wife of 32 years, "and we felt that living on a ranch provided opportunities to make the boys and our daughter the very stable, hard-working people they are. We just enjoyed living there [on the ranch]. I mean that's what Rob and I knew. We thought we were the luckiest people in the world because we enjoyed going to work."
All that ended on the morning of March 27, 2010.
Krentz, who was 58, was working on the ranch just like nearly every other day of his adult life when he apparently saw something out of order that took him off the beaten path. He was ambushed and murdered by unknown criminals who had crossed over from Mexico and fled back across the border. An American family man shot down on his own property--yet another victim of violence on a border now left inadequately protected by the federal government.
"To his neighbors and friends, Robert Krentz was known as a kind and gentle soul you could count on to help you in a time of need," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told members gathered at the recent NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Charlotte, N.C. "And if he happened to find an immigrant suffering in the relentless heat, Robert Krentz was the kind of man who'd give him the water or food he needed, whether he was trespassing or not.
"Robert Krentz was not a man to harbor malice for anyone. He just wanted to feel his family could be safe in their own home and on their own land.
"Robert Krentz was one of the good guys."
The Border Is Secure?
"I say this again as someone who has walked that border," Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano recently told Congress. "I've ridden that border. I've flown it. I've driven it. I know that border, I think, as well as anyone, and I will tell you it is as secure now as it has ever been."
Napolitano's statement is nothing less than a flat-out lie--something we've come to expect from Obama administration officials concerning any number of issues over the past year and a half.
The truth is, our nation's southern border is far from secure. Ask anybody who lives there about the changes over the past several years. In fact, just ask the Krentz family.
"Actually, it was pretty peaceful until I would say the early 1990s, when we started seeing an influx in the people," Susan Krentz said. "Then in the late '90s, it just got to be more and more damage, more fences being cut, the numbers of people started increasing. In fact, in the late 2000s, in eight days officials removed 500 people from the ranch.
"Gradually, they got to be more and more belligerent, and they are very sophisticated and very well-organized. They have better communication systems than we do," said Susan Krentz.
Such was the situation on the border on March 27, when Robert Krentz needlessly lost his life, changing his family forever.
"People had warned that something like this was going to happen," said Robert's other son, Andy Krentz, another NRA Life member in a family of longtime Association supporters. "It could have been anybody here along the border instead of us--it just happened to be us."
Andy Krentz is quick to point out that because he was recovering from recent surgeries, his father was incapable of escaping the attack against him, sealing his doom.
"He had back surgery, he had his right hip replaced, he was incapable of escaping if someone was going to harm him," Andy said. "I mean, if he could have got close enough to the person he might have got away, because he was strong in his upper body. But from a distance he was unable to evade an attack because he was pretty hurt.
"He was recovering, he was doing pretty well, but he wasn't spry by any means. It takes a certain amount of dexterity and flexibility to move out of the way of somebody laying fire on you. I'm not saying that anybody could have gotten away, but he definitely did not have the opportunity to try."
While some politicians like Napolitano, who have visited the border country and truly understand the situation there, simply lie about conditions there to push their political agendas, many others truly don't understand the nature of the country along our southern border. This leads to apathy by many politicians and American citizens--kind of an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude.
"They don't understand the vastness of the border," said Andy Krentz. "It's very hard to describe. You know, you can't see it, and it just goes seemingly forever. It's not a dirt road that you can drive on, there are mountains, in places it's impossible to travel unless you're on foot. A human can traverse it, but a mechanical vehicle cannot.
"Take a mile of space, with trees and rocks, that you can't actually cover or see," he continued, "a lot of people can move through that area. That's the biggest thing--people just don't understand what the border is. And they don't understand the dangers that it poses, either. It's a desert. It's hot, it's dry, and there's not very much water unless you know where to find it."
The Root Of The Problem
NRA's Wayne LaPierre sees the intense violence problems on the border today as part of a widespread systemic failure of government.
"Wherever you look, from Washington, D.C., to statehouses from New York to California, in city halls and courtrooms across this country, the people we entrust to make the laws, enforce the laws, preserve our freedoms and protect this country are abandoning us and abdicating their sworn and sacred duties," LaPierre recently told members at the Annual Meetings.
"It's closing in on us from two directions--from our border to the south, and from cities in every corner of this country."
It all stems, LaPierre says, from abuse of power by those in the "ruling class."
"It's caused by two dishonest and deadly abuses of power by those who wield it: Selective enforcement and prosecution of the criminal laws against the bad guys, and selective recognition and protection of the freedoms of the good guys," he said. "The political elites want to pick and choose which laws they enforce or ignore, who they prosecute or exempt from the law, whose rights they defend and whose rights they deny. In so doing, they directly endanger you, me and everyone in this country."
"Right now in Mexico, several global drug cartels are waging war for control of that trade," LaPierre said. "You've seen the horrible carnage in the news--torture, beheadings, victims plunged into vats of fuming acid. It's like some insane nightmare of how war would be waged in hell.
"But that nightmare is moving north like a knife into our unprotected underbelly. Mile by mile, these drug-cartel killers are bringing murder, kidnapping, torture and terror across our border, and leaving a bloody trail of bodies from Texas to California."
Indeed, heavily armed, dangerous drug runners cross over the border and through residents' property as if there were no border at all. In fact, drug couriers have long used the Krentz ranch as a crossing point. Andy Krentz remembers the first time he learned about a shipment of drugs being scattered across the Krentz ranch by drug runners who were being pursued by the Border Patrol. He was only 6 years old.
"From the time I was 6 to now, we are still dealing with narcotics coming across," he said. "I would say once or twice a year these guys find something out there, at a minimum. And if you're finding it one time a year, how much are you not finding, or how much are they letting through? It has not stopped. It has not even slowed down."
Fix It Or Forget It?
As members of the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association, the Krentzes are strong supporters of that organization's 18-point Restore Our Border Security Plan to make the border a safe place for families to live and work.
"The U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona has become a lawless region," the plan's introduction states. "Criminals, bandits and an international organized crime unit are operating with impunity in the region. Their trades are burglary, home invasion, drug smuggling, human smuggling, murder, extortion and kidnapping rackets. These organized crime units have been terrorizing northern Mexico for 20 years and have been terrorizing southern Arizona for at least 10 years. These entities are extremely violent and dangerous and they have now succeeded in creating terror in southern Arizona as they have in northern Mexico."
The plan lays out 18 action items for the federal government to address in order to restore the Arizona border to a peaceful place for ranchers to work and raise their families.
"I understand that some of the people that do cross the border are looking for a better life," said Susan Krentz. "But the other countries who force their people out do not want to be responsible to them to create economic opportunity, create an infrastructure where people can survive and create jobs, because people don't really want to leave their homeland.
"We have a good plan that not only protects the citizens of the United States, but also the border crossers, because the people that are coming across are being exploited and sold into slavery and attacked. You know, they have to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 to these people who are smuggling them across. And if they don't pay, women are raped, men are beaten and killed."
Unfortunately, the Cattle Growers' plan has fallen on deaf ears. Federal authorities instead simply declared the border to be "secure," and continue to treat ranchers in the area like crybabies worrying over a minor distraction rather than the endangered species they have become.
Consequently, in an attempt to protect its residents, Arizona passed its own immigration law, mirroring existing federal law, which is not currently being enforced. The Krentzes and the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association neither supported nor opposed that legislation, instead sticking with their action items in the Restore Our Border Security Plan.
However, the resulting national debate over the Arizona immigration bill, much of it directly caused through outright lies by President Barack Obama and his administration, have turned the lives and livelihood of the Krentzes and other ranchers on the border country into even more of a political football to be kicked back and forth, with nothing being done to fix the deadly situation.
"None of this ever should have happened!" LaPierre said. "If the political elites had done their jobs, they would have secured the border. They would have prosecuted illegal alien drug gangs and criminals.
"If they had done their jobs, they would have prevented ranchers from being murdered, and Hispanic victims from being kidnapped and killed!"
The Gun-Ban Connection
While immigration is not an issue on which the National Rifle Association has ever taken a stand, the issue's link to gun control is undeniable.
"Immigration might not be our issue," LaPierre said. "But the crisis on our southern border is a perfect illustration of the same dishonesty and corruption that have infected the gun debate for decades. And the consequences of the ruling class refusing to do anything to contain that crisis ultimately endanger your Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
"You know exactly where it leads. Whether it's laws against armed, violent crime, illegal immigration or anything else, the consequences of selective enforcement are always exactly the same--bad guys get a pass, and good guys like you get it in the chest."
LaPierre pointed out that when violent crime explodes as a result of the government's refusal to enforce the law, those same politicians always attack your Second Amendment right to protect yourself. An excellent example is Mexico President Felipe Calderon's recent call to the U.S. Congress to reinstate a ban on semi-automatic rifles--including the same "ranch rifles" carried by many while working their ranches on our southern border.
"That's morally wrong, it's destructive to society and it's got to stop now!" LaPierre said.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Krentzes don't know what the future holds. But they do know that things need to change quickly for them to be able to return to ranching along an unprotected border largely ignored by Washington politicians.
"We are going to continue to ranch, and we are going to continue to survive," said Susan Krentz. "That's it. We don't have a choice.
"But will it be easy? No. Will it be challenging? Yes. Will we have to be more vigilant and careful instead of where before we always just kind of had an idea that they would never hurt us? Yes."
With many politicians largely making a campaign issue out of the endangered lives of border residents, Andy Krentz believes that perhaps it is the American people who can prompt the necessary changes.
"You know, ultimately, maybe it needs to be a didactic shift in the thinking of the American populace," he said. "People need to say, 'Wait a minute. You know, I own a home with a yard, and basically what they [politicians] are saying is somebody could be in my yard and I walk out and say get off my yard, or ask if they need help, and they shoot me.' That is the same thing, and that could happen right here in Charlotte."
That's why the NRA is taking a very strong stand over Association members being murdered and terrorized on their own property because Washington politicians won't work to protect them.
"Instead of securing the borders and protecting law-abiding American families, politicians in Washington did nothing, as if they wanted to play some sick game of hateful manipulation to polarize the country, prejudice the vote and poison the political system--just so they can protect their jobs," LaPierre concluded. "The consequence of that corruption and contempt for the rule of law is this: While terrorized residents throw their deadbolts, draw their blinds and pray not to have their homes invaded or their kids kidnapped in Arizona, in Washington, D.C., the ruling elite bask in the safety of their 24-hour security and scream with outrage at Arizona's law--all because they insist upon playing political games with our lives!
"Ladies and gentlemen, it's contemptible, it's life-threatening and it has got to stop!"