Pro–gun rights activists rally in Virginia
Virginia’s Democratic-controlled legislature pushed ahead with a package of gun-control laws this week, after 22,000 gun-rights activists from across the nation—many dressed in camouflage and carrying military-style rifles—gathered outside the Capitol to protest the planned restrictions. Fears of violence ran high in the days before the demonstration. The FBI last week arrested three members of a white supremacist group called The Base who allegedly hoped to spark a race war by shooting civilians and police officers at the rally. The potential presence of extremist groups led Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to temporarily ban firearms from Capitol grounds. But the hours-long demonstration in Richmond unfolded peacefully, with protesters chanting “We will not comply” and “USA! USA!”
After taking control of the state government last fall for the first time in 26 years, Democrats promised to swiftly enact new limits on firearms. The package working its way through the legislature includes bills that would impose universal background checks and a one-handgun-a-month purchase limit, and allow the temporary confiscation of firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. The bills have rankled many rural residents in a state that’s long supported gun rights, and over 100 municipalities have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.” But Democrats said they were responding to the concerns of their constituents, many of whom demanded action after 12 people died in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach last year. “You will see sensible gun violence prevention legislation pass this year,” said Democratic Del. Alfonso Lopez.
What the columnists said
So much for the media’s “hysterical” predictions, said Dan Gainor in FoxNews.com. From the run-up coverage you’d have thought we were facing “the start of the second civil war,” or at least a repeat of the bloody 2017 Charlottesville protest. Instead, we got “a rally so peaceful that the protesters even picked up their own trash.” The protesters should be lauded, said the Washington Examiner in an editorial. They’re speaking out against laws that would “make a mockery of due process and create more barriers for law-abiding citizens to exercise” their Second Amendment rights.
Let’s call this rally what it really was, said Will Bunch in The Philadelphia Inquirer: “An outbreak of terrorism on American soil.” Wearing face masks and carting “enough firepower to defeat the Ukrainian army”—one man packed a military-grade .50-caliber sniper rifle—this armed gang aimed to terrify lawmakers. In part, they succeeded. One legislator took shelter in a safe house after being bombarded with “death threats from these ‘patriotic Americans.’”
The protesters are being driven by fear, said Petula Dvorak in The Washington Post. Many believe that a “red flag” law allowing weapons to be removed from mentally troubled individuals is part of a left-wing gun-confiscation conspiracy. But two-thirds of all gun deaths in Virginia are suicides, and most of those who kill themselves are rural white males over the age of 45. That almost perfectly describes the demographic at the rally. “Think about it guys. The biggest thing you have to fear, when it comes to guns, is yourselves.” ■