The Virginia Citizens’ Defense League has often petitioned the General Assembly on Lobby Day. The event — which takes place alongside the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday — draws concerned Virginians to Richmond to petition their representatives over various issues. This year, however, the organization’s efforts to voice its support for protections outlined in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights drew approximately 22,000 people to the Virginia State Capitol. After Democrats gained control of the legislature in November, Virginians have grown concerned over a slate of proposed gun control measures. Gun sales spiked in the weeks after the election over fears the state government would ban certain firearms, and the VCDL’s usually quiet Lobby Day event attracted not only thousands more participants than previously, but also national media attention.
What transpired Jan. 20 could not be further from the fears of state officials and the hopes of those in the media and politics who — though they would never say so — wanted this event to descend into chaos and violence to bolster their own agendas of eroding individual liberties.
Reports that out-of-state white supremacist groups planned to use the event to incite violence caused concern for officials eager to avoid another calamity comparable to that of the 2017 Charlottesville riots. The national news media capitalized on these fears to paint rally-goers with an overly broad brush — insinuating the event itself was a white supremacist gathering intent on intimidation.
What I saw on Monday was beautiful — a thousands-strong group of the young and old, black and white, woman and man, gathered in the peaceful defense of shared beliefs. The Jan. 20 rally was not only an explicit rejection of government intrusion into the human right of self-defense, but also an implicit dismissal of the division along identity lines that has infected our politics and our discourse.
Referencing the fundamental principles upon which America was founded remains relevant in our present situation. Despite the outcome of democratic elections — themselves key to a free society — the Constitution and the republican soul of America protect its citizens from a tyrannical majority.
Virginians elected the Commonwealth’s current legislators and governor who support sweeping gun control measures. Many Democratic delegates and state senators in competitive districts received funding from out-of-state billionaires like George Soros, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg to advance a gun control agenda in the Commonwealth, but Virginians elected them all the same. Despite the apparent popularity of gun control in the state, however, over 90 percent of Virginia localities have declared themselves Second Amendment or Constitutional Sanctuaries. State Democrats do not have the right to infringe upon Virginians’ rights regardless of how many elections they win, and the Jan. 20 rally was a reminder of that.
The Constitution does not give Americans their rights. Every human around the world is born with certain inalienable rights, and Americans are fortunate enough to live in a country whose government in large part acknowledges that. The Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights did so not to restrict the agency of citizens but the reach of government. Those calling to diminish the Second Amendment must acknowledge that eroding individual liberties and protections will only benefit the powerful and exploit the powerless.
Framing the debate over gun rights in terms of power reveals the key issues at stake. If voters dissect the motives behind the proposed gun control measures, certain inconsistencies in state Democrats’ rhetoric and actions arise. While bills restricting access to firearms, their carry in certain public spaces and the dismissal of due process have passed the Democrat-controlled State Senate, a bill that would increase the legal punishments for the use of firearms in certain felonies failed to get past the Democrat-controlled House Firearms Subcommittee. All five Democrats on the committee voted to kill the bill, while all three committee Republicans voted to pass it to the House of Delegates floor.
Other bills designed to deter the violent use of guns — including SB82, which would increase mandatory sentences for the use of firearms when violating protective orders — have languished in Democrat-controlled subcommittees.
In other words, the trajectories of these bills indicate an agenda uninterested in encouraging the proper and safe use of firearms but resolved on limiting the free exercise of individual liberties. Democrats’ calls for increased “gun safety” in Virginia are lies. Instead of prosecuting criminals, state Democrats have demonstrated their goal of stripping ordinary men and women of their personal agency.
The caged-off sections of the capitol grounds provide a poignant metaphor exemplifying the concerns Virginians have regarding the leftward lurch of the state. Virginia Democrats such as Mark Herring have actively attempted to undermine President Trump’s efforts to secure our nation’s southern border against crime and illegal drugs with a wall, but chose to construct walls restricting Virginians’ access to their own state house. Richmond — the city where Patrick Henry once proclaimed “Give me liberty, or give me death!” — has become host to an anti-liberty movement. Virginians cannot ignore the slow erosion of their rights and dignity, and must continue to peacefully protest those who would seek to take their agency and liberty from them.
Tom Ferguson is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.