By now you’ve heard that Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has declared a “state of emergency” and banned the possession of firearms in downtown Richmond where a massive gun rights rally is set to take place on January 20th.
Northam has been threatening the move for days, and it culminates what has been the worst slander against lawful gun owners in recent memory. Gov. Northam and his allies in the media have conflated white supremacists with legitimate peaceful protesters, and Northam’s executive order confirms that slander in the minds of the public: gun owners are dangerous, and their presence in the capital necessitates a state of emergency.
Northam probably knows more about white supremacy than I do, given his history, but this is starting to get ridiculous.
Virginia’s intelligence officials may have picked up evidence that extremists are planning violence on January 20th, but you wouldn’t know it from Northam’s order.
He beings by alluding to the far-right white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville in August of 2017. This has become a theme in the media coverage of this event and in the governor’s statements. If you weren’t paying attention, you’d think the upcoming rally was about guns and white supremacism.
In the next paragraph, he gives Virginians his justification for declaring a state of emergency. He says, “Credible intelligence gathered by Virginia’s law enforcement agencies indicates that tens of thousands of advocates plan to converge on Capitol Square for events culminating on January 20, 2020.”
No offense to Virginia’s law enforcement agencies, but a groundhog with an internet connection could have figured that one out. You don’t need “credible evidence” to determine that a massive rally is about to take place in Richmond.
Northam continues: “Available information suggests that a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection.”
Notice he switches from “credible intelligence” to “available information” when describing the threat from out-of-state “demonstrators.” Also, notice the vagueness of the term “substantial number.” How many is that? 10? 100? 10,000? Is the Galactic Empire descending on Richmond, Gov. Northam?
The Virginia Citizens Defense League is confused as well. The gun-rights group responsible for organizing the rally noted in an email to supporters that “neither the Governor nor any of his law enforcement has informed VCDL of any of these alleged threats.” Whatever threats the governor’s team has discovered, they haven’t bothered to tell the organization in the best position to keep the rally peaceful.
I’m old enough to remember when Democrats complained for two solid weeks about how President Trump’s drone strike on Qasem Soleimani was ill-advised because the White House couldn’t publicly name a specific, “imminent” attack. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the standard of evidence required for vaporizing a terrorist should be lower than the evidence required from delegitimizing a civil rights protest. The same Democrats who cried for proof of specific threats to kill a bona fide terrorist are happy to intimidate gun owners on what appears to be far less evidence.
Anyway, that’s it. Those two sentences are Northam’s justification for his executive order.
It’s entirely possible that Virginia’s finest have, in fact, discovered a plot to sow violence and “insurrection” on Monday. But does anyone think those individuals will pack up their swastikas and their Lugers and go home just because Northam banned lawful gun owners from carrying firearms? This is a microcosm of the entire gun rights debate over the last 50 years, and Northam’s massive gun-free zone could very well endanger those who seek to demonstrate peacefully. Honestly, you could cut this irony with a knife.
Northam, in short, has made it clear that the right to peaceful protest is sacred to every group except Second Amendment supporters. Women’s rights leaders associated with open anti-Semites were allowed to descend on the nation’s capital during the Women’s March without so much as a peep from mainstream politicians or state governors. But when gun owners rise up peacefully to make their displeasure heard, their efforts are cast as racist and violent.
The governor’s campaign against what promises to be the largest pro-gun gathering in Virginia’s history began last week, when several mainstream media outlets ran reports claiming to have uncovered a Charlottesville-like plot in the making. But while their headlines were inflammatory, their evidence was what kids these days call “weak sauce.”
One article, for example, cited by Moms Demand Action, declares “Virginia Democrats won an election. Gun owners are talking civil war.” The author begins by comparing the gun rights rally to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and includes a section titled, “White supremacists are recruiting.” Here’s how that section begins (notice all the rabid white supremacists she mentions):
Virginia’s gun rights battle is already being covered widely in conservative media outlets. Donald Trump and the rightwing Arizona congressman Paul Gosar shared articles about it on Twitter. The Fox News host Tucker Carlson talked to a guest on his show about fears that local law enforcement in Virginia would be sent in to confiscate citizens’ guns. Carlson blamed the left for “trying to pick a fight, like a real fight, with rural Virginia.”
The author’s so-called evidence for sounding the alarm about white supremacist recruitment comes entirely from third party experts who claim to have been monitoring “conversations” online. But she never actually quotes any of these white supremacists or links to their inflammatory comments.
She also mentions a militia group known as Oath Keepers. Much of the media fervor surrounding the upcoming rally stems from statements made by Oath Keepers leadership about visiting the rally. But even the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t go so far as to call them a white supremacist group, and white supremacists themselves have criticized Oath Keepers because they aren’t racist. In addition, the Oath Keepers organization has never, to my knowledge, been blamed for any acts of violence.
Neither the media nor Gov. Northam has been able to name any actual white supremacist threats to the January 20th rally or prove that Nazis, et al, are planning to descend on Richmond in large numbers.
This raises the question, Why the state of emergency?
I spent my formative years in Virginia, and I’ve proudly watched how gun owners have responded to the constitutional threats coming from the Democratic legislature. This campaign to paint the gun rights rally as another Charlottesville slanders all those hard-working, law-abiding gun owners who want to protect their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Friends of mine in Virginia have defended the governor and argued that threats of violence should never be taken lightly when thousands of people are crammed into a few square blocks. I get that, and I’ve advocated against openly carried firearms at large public rallies. If someone does start shooting, it’s almost impossible for law enforcement to tell the good guys from the bad.
It’s also worth noting that the rally is still taking place. The governor hasn’t gone so far as to ban peaceful protest, and his rhetoric doesn’t appear to have discouraged attendees.
But Gov. Northam and the media have engaged in a blatant campaign to delegitimize Monday’s rally. Rather than focus on the massive grassroots uprising against restrictive gun bans, the media has obsessed about “another Charlottesville” and “out of state militia groups.” Their coverage and the governor’s overblown “state of emergency” allow the rally to be dismissed as nothing more than the unhinged complaints of white supremacists and crazies.
It’s insulting, it’s slanderous, and it needs to be proven wrong. I hope the rally goes off without a hitch, tens of thousands of people attend, and the country sees what can happen when elitist politicians threaten the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
If you’re planning to visit Richmond on Monday, check out the email below from the VCDL, especially this portion:
IF YOU SEE A BAD ACTOR flag down a police officer and point it out. If someone tries to provoke you, smile and walk away. There is probably someone secretly recording the interaction, with the intent of capturing some kind of inappropriate reaction on your part. Don’t take the bait. It’s not worth the bad press. Again, you might want to notify law enforcement of such bad actors.
The eyes of the nation and the world are on Virginia and VCDL right now and we must show them that gun owners are not the problem.”