[one_third]Liberal – Colin Bayne
On Jan. 20, Richmond, Virginia was host to a widely publicized and politically fraught rally surrounding recent gun control legislation in Virginia. The legislation proposed by Virginia Democrats contained provisions such as universal background checks, limits of one handgun purchase per month, so-called ‘red flag’ laws relating to purchasing restrictions for those deemed a risk to themselves or others, an assault weapons ban, among others.
To many, these laws all sound reasonable, and many are. For example, the vast majority of card-carrying NRA members support universal background checks.
Others have effects that are not obvious to those who do not use or own guns. For example, assault weapons bans have been hotly debated, due especially to the vague nature of what constitutes an assault weapons, with commonly used hunting guns qualifying while others that should qualify are exempted by small design modifications.
When a federal assault weapons ban was instituted in 1994, it had little effect on the amount of crime involving such weapons, already a low percentage of total gun violence. The main consequence of such a law is irritation for law-abiding gun owners, who are then required to purchase unnecessary add-ons or devices to own and operate their guns legally.
Red flag laws have the potential to help prevent mass shootings and other violent crime, but they also pose a risk to human rights due to arbitrary classification of dangerous individuals. This might include potential abuse by government institutions to designate political language as a disqualification for owning guns. This poses a real concern not just to right-wing gun activists, but to leftist groups as well, from socialists and anarchists to groups adjacent to Black Lives Matter, and others that advocate for community self-defense for marginalized groups.
While the rally was politicized in the media mainly due to concerns that violence might break out, it was largely peaceful, with a complete lack of police interference. At a rally full of guns and gun owners, the police kept a great distance, despite lawbreaking by protestors.
The main lesson seems to be this: cops will not mess with armed protestors. This is a fact that radical leftist groups have been slow to realize, but one they could stand to learn. As Karl Marx said: “Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.”
As groups like the Black Panther Party have shown, guns have a powerful place in a leftist culture of community defense and protest, and in these troubled times, we should be more mindful of this than ever.
[one_third]Independent – Anthony McInnis
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a pro-gun rights rally organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) was held in Richmond, Virginia. This was in response to concerns Virginia gun-owners had about proposed legislation to further regulate firearms within the state. During the state elections held on Nov. 5 of last year, Democrats won a majority of seats in the Virginia General Assembly with a strong focus on gun control efforts during the campaign cycle. The common forms of gun control being championed today are universal background checks, bans on assault rifles and “red flag” laws, in an effort to reduce the high number of gun deaths and mass shootings in America.
While some of the VCDL’s fears may be exaggerated, they are understandably justified in several of their concerns. To many people living in rural areas throughout the country, gun culture is a way of life. So, even if legislation may make sense practically, there will always be an initial animosity to laws that can alter the lives they affect. While these new rules may make it cumbersome for people to share guns with their friends and family, universal background checks are, frankly, fairly reasonable requirements as they cause, at worst, an inconvenience for gun owners.
However, “red flag” laws, which permit police or family to petition a court to remove fire-arms from a person they deem dangerous, are needlessly authoritarian and ripe for abuse. While assault rifle bans may, on the surface, make sense, they will do little to reduce the total number of gun deaths, as the majority are committed with handguns. In general, while gun control in many cases is a reasonable position, it does not answer the call for fewer gun deaths as these are issues wrapped in social-economic circumstances and mental health quality.
There were many concerns that the Virginia gun rally would result in violence as many attendees came armed and several far-right personalities, such as Alex Jones, were in attendance. Thankfully, that was not the case. It was ultimately the ideal protest, as any bad publicity would only have hurt the gun-rights movement activists and made it easy to draw comparisons with the far right. It was not a pro-Trump, or more specifically an anti-Democrat rally, but simply a protest in favor of gun rights—which is why it was a success for the VCDL and Virginia gun owners.
[one_third]Conservative – Mark Pothen
With a slew of different restrictive gun control measures being pursued within the state of Virginia, citizens of the state took to the streets to protest these measures, which include “red flag” laws and universal background checks.
The legislation is ridiculous on many levels. First is the contested constitutionality of such stringent gun controls which obviously infringe on Second Amendment rights. There’s also the issue of enforcement of the legislation, as many Sheriffs are unwilling to enforce such laws.
There’s also the issue that throughout December, many of Virginia’s counties and cities voted to be gun sanctuary zones, further putting into question enforceability of such overly-stringent laws on a population that clearly opposes their right to bear arms being stripped from them.
The mainstream media then proceeded to liken the event to a white nationalist rally comparing it to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. While the “Unite the Right” rally was aggressive, dangerous and partisan, the Virginia protests were bipartisan and peaceful.
Ben Collins, an NBC news reporter, even went so far as to tweet out, “Reporters covering tomorrow’s white nationalist rally in Virginia, I’m absolutely begging you: Verify information before you send it out tomorrow, even if it’s a very sensational rumor you heard from a cop. Don’t become a hero in neo-Nazi propaganda circles with made-up stuff.”
It seems to me that if the intent of this rally was for it to be rooted in white supremacy, the event organizers were doing a terrible job of accomplishing that goal. There were no calls for violence and the protest attracted individuals from all walks of life including members of the LGBT community and Democrats. In truth, this was simply a group of individuals rallying for their rights not to be infringed upon. There were no instances of violence during the rally and every individual carrying a firearm was lawfully doing so.
The media blew the peaceful protest out of proportion and took the focus off of the real issue of poor legislation.