by James A. Bacon
In General Assembly action yesterday, Democrats spiked a slew of Republican bills to relax gun laws and debated a so-called “red flag” law that would allow authorities to remove firearms from persons deemed “a substantial risk of injury to himself or others.”
The operating supposition behind Democratic gun-control initiatives is that gun violence is a huge problem in Virginia. Given the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach municipal center last year, plus ongoing chronic violence in inner-city jurisdictions such as Richmond, Petersburg, and Portsmouth, it is understandable that people would harbor that perception.
But the reality is that Virginia is one of the least violent states in the country. To be specific, according to data published in USA Today, the violent crime rate in Virginia is 4th lowest of the 50 states. Only in three small, predominantly rural states in New England is the crime rate lower. Compared to other states with comparable demographics — racial/ethnic mix, concentrations of urban poverty, Southern culture, and the like — Virginia’s violent crime rate is startlingly low. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Twenty-two thousand armed citizens packed the streets of downtown Richmond yesterday, and not one shot was fired. No one was killed. No one was injured. There was only one arrest — of a 21-year-old woman who refused, in violation of a prohibition against masks, to remove a bandana from her face. And she, most likely, was of the leftist persuasion. As the Virginia Mercury quotes her male companion, “Way to keep our city safe, guys, while there’s fuckin’ Nazis and terrorists around here.”
After hyping fears that far-right extremists might create mayhem, the mainstream media heaved a collective sigh of relief. Some headlines:
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Gun-Rights Rally Draws 22,000 to Capitol; No Violence.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “No Violence as Thousands with Firearms Gathered
Washington Post: Weapons, Flags, No Violence: Massive Pro-Gun Rally in Virginia Capitol.”
Associated Press: “Pro-Gun Rally by Thousands in Richmond Ends Peacefully.”
Urban journalists and other progressives never cease to be amazed when law-abiding rural rustics with guns are, well… law-abiding. The media — especially the Washington Post — had fanned fears that the event would be disrupted by armed militias, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
I was tempted to go the large anti gun-control rally but I had other work to do for customers and I didn’t want to get caught in a traffic jam. I have been to a few of these things before – some violent, some not.
There seems to be a certain amount of self congratulation now that the demonstration is over with no violence and one arrest. A few takeaways:
(1) Gov. Ralph Northam and his team deserve credit for taking smart precautions such as requiring no guns and metal detectors even though I didn’t quite see the point with having thousands of guys tricked out in military garb carrying assault style rifles just outside the fences at Capitol Grounds. This is what should have been done in Charlottesville in 2017.
(2) This was the approach taken at Klan rallies I covered in the late 1990s in Cleveland and Clarksburg,W.Va. The police tolerated nothing. I also was at a two-day riot in Moscow on Oct. 3 and 4 1993 where order completely broke down in a coup against Boris Yeltsin. Hundreds were killed including some people standing close to me. I also was almost caught in a machine gun cross fire on a highway. Among the dead were seven journalists.
(3) This being Bacon’s Rebellion, one has to ask the most important question. How much is this costing the city, state and federal government? Why hasn’t anyone asked this question before? We’re supposed to shell out public dough so a bunch of guys opposing fairly moderate gun regulations can feel good about themselves?
(4) Lastly, there’s the moral aspect to this. I can’t say it any better than Ross Catrow in Good Morning RVA. Here’s what he wrote this morning: Continue reading
Sen. Amanda Chase
by James A. Bacon
The gears are moving for the Second Amendment rally at the state Capitol scheduled for tomorrow. Buses are loading up with protesters. Law enforcement authorities are planning their crowd-control measures. Despite professions of everyone in charge that they want the event to take place peacefully, there are many disquieting signs. The most disturbing indicator, of course, was the arrest of three far-right extremists Thursday on allegations that they were planning to instigate violence.
But gun-rights sympathizers are arguing that Governor Ralph Northam is going to excessive lengths to maintain security. Not only has he prohibited protesters from carrying weapons on the Capitol grounds, they say security forces have erected heavy fencing around the Capitol and plan to limit admission to the area through a single entrance.
The gun-rights crowd is not responding well. State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, has suggested on her Facebook page that protesters are “being set up.” With the assistance of the media, she said, Northam has laid the groundwork “to make the entire movement look like insurrection.” Continue reading
Can this thing be weaponized?
Since posting my previous post, I’ve been thinking about Governor Ralph Northam’s decision to declare a state of emergency to keep a lid on the upcoming gun-rights rally. I’m sure it was not a decision lightly taken. The Governor is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation — criticized by one side for clamping down on the rights of law-abiding citizens, but subject to even worse criticism, if gun violence breaks out, had he failed to act. I get it.
Here’s the thing. There’s a lot of hysteria surrounding this issue. The media has played up crazy, unsubstantiated rumors and worrisome threats circulating in extreme right-wing social media. But deranged right-wingers are not the only people who are capable of over-reacting. What, exactly, is the menace that Northam sees? Were the worrisome words trash talk designed to impress other right-wing nut jobs, or is there legitimate reason to think the people intend to act upon them? Obviously, it is better to err on the side of caution on such things. But do the threats rise to the level of a state of emergency?
Northam could help himself if he held a press conference featuring a Virginia law enforcement officer in charge of evaluating the threats. Who, specifically, are we worried about? Name organizations! What are we afraid people might do? And perhaps most importantly, how are the measures associated with the state of emergency tailored to deal with those threats? For example, Northam has mentioned worries about an attack by drone. How does squatting on gun rights protect people from drone attacks? Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
So, Governor Ralph Northam yesterday declared a state of emergency that bans the bearing of firearms on stat property from Jan. 17 through Jan. 21. In justification, he cited plans by tens of thousands of gun-rights advocates to gather in Richmond in protest of gun-control legislation under consideration by the General Assembly.
Stated Northam in a prepared statement: “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.”
Rioting and insurrection? Really. Them’s strong words. The Washington Post has written of out-of-state groups coming to Virginia to form posses and militias, as well as reckless and unsubstantiated rumors spreading on social media. The newspaper also referred vaguely to “threats” made against Northam. According to Virginia Public Media, Northam has said officials have heard reports of “out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.” He said they “are coming to intimidate and cause harm.”
Question: If specific hate groups have been identified, why aren’t they being targeted by law enforcement? Also, wouldn’t it be helpful to notify the public who they are? Why the need to deprive everyone, including law-abiding citizens, of the right to carry arms onto state property?
Update: According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Northam claimed that “armed militia groups” plan on “storming our Capitol” and “weaponizing drones.” That’s a lot more specific — and alarming — than the intelligence I cited in other media reports.
Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell Jr. president of Liberty University, needs to dial down his rhetoric. Speaking on a Lynchburg radio show, he predicted a backlash of local law enforcement authorities against gun-control legislation from the General Assembly, reports the News & Advance. Presumably referring to legislators, he said, “I think they’re going to be faced with civil disobedience, not just by citizens but by police officers. And I think it’s what they deserve.” Continue reading
Half a loaf is worse than none. Sen. Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Springfield, has introduced a bill that would represent a significant erosion of Virginia’s Right to Work law without repealing it outright. SB 426, entitled “Fair Share Fees,” would authorize an employer to charge employees within a collective bargaining unit who choose not to join the union for the union’a cost associated with collective bargaining, administrative overhead and representation of employees before public bodies. The “fair share fee” would exclude the cost of political activities, lobbying and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining and in no case would exceed 60% of dues. The justification is to eliminate the “free riding” of non-union members who benefit from a union’s collective bargaining efforts.
Tactically, this is a brilliant move by Saslaw because it undermines the most powerful argument against mandatory union membership and payment of union dues — that it forces employees to contribute to political causes with which they disagree. Politically, the bill represents a big payoff to organized labor. Republicans in the General Assembly aren’t likely to support this half-a-loaf approach, but it could persuade moderate, pro-business Democrats. If Saslaw’s gambit succeeds, it would significantly increase the economic power of unions in Virginia and undermine the state’s business climate.
Are safe zones next? HB 40, sponsored by Del. Ibrahim Samirah, D-Herndon, would require every Virginia public school to create and maintain a “mental health break” space with the public school building. Under the bill, the Board of Education would promulgate regulations for the design of the space, student usage, and staffing. The spaces would be indoors, separate from classrooms and as close as possible to the school’s medical service facilities. I can’t imagine this bill will go anywhere this year — the Democrats have bigger fish to fry with the move to bolster K-12 spending by $1.5 billion — but it provides insight into emerging priorities among Virginia progressives. In the progressive vision, the mission of public schools is morphing from educating children to ameliorating their social, economic and mental-health condition. This my friends, is a bottomless pit. There will never be enough money. (Hat tip: Carol Bova.) Continue reading
Governor Ralph Northam has just introduced his “Virginia 2020 Plan” outlining his legislative priorities for the 2020 General Assembly session. His summary of the plan says this about gun control:
Advance common-sense gun safety measures. Keep prohibited persons away from firearms. Universal background checks. “Red flag” law. Restore longstanding “1 handgun a month” law.
What? Nothing about bump stocks and assault weapons? Has Northam backed off the idea of restricting gun types in favor of keeping “prohibited” people (domestic abusers, the mentally ill) away from firearms? If so, that’s a move in the right direction. Continue reading
Scene from the aftermath of the Unite the 2017 Right rally in Charlottesville.
By Peter Galuszka
Think” of it as “Unite the Right 2.0.” Thousands of protesters from Virginia and beyond the state will be converging on Richmond, many packing heat, to support “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” which are cities or counties that refuse any law passed by the Democratically controlled General Assembly to pass any law that in any way infringes on firearm rights.
This brings back memories of the violent 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville over removing Confederate memorials that ended up with the deaths of three people and the injuries of scores of others. Charlottesville overnight morphed into the ugly icon of the Trump who incredibly found equivalency between white supremacists and people who protested against them.
The Virginia Civil Defense League, a pro-gun group, has put together a complex organization for the event with chartered business leaving such as places as Abingdon for the reasonable price of about $30.
In Charlottesville in images that were circulated worldwide tough looking men in camouflaged that give Virginia a black eye as fascist, white power police state. Charlottesville and the state prepared badly for the travesty. There were no body checks, no electronic scanners, no separation between sides. (I have seen such things in other states). In a recent book highly critical of Charlottesville, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe bemoaned the fact that the white supremacists had higher quality and higher power rifles than the Virginia State Police did.
So what will happen Jan. 20? Continue reading
Gun rights advocates outside Virginia Beach administration building last night. City Council voted 6 to 4 to declare city a Second Amendment sanctuary.
by James A. Bacon
As Virginia Beach and Clarke County joined the list of 100+ Virginia localities endorsing symbolic Second Amendment sanctuary status and as gun-rights activists plan a massive rally at the state capitol, many in the media are working themselves into a frenzy of fear. No one appears to be more terrified than the scribblers at the Washington Post.
The Post is comparing the planned Richmond rally, expected to draw 50,000 or more, with the 2017 slugfest between white supremacists and leftist counter-protesters in Charlottesville. The gun-rights crowd, warns the editorial page, “would be several times larger than those that paralyzed and convulsed Charlottesville in August 2017. … There are plenty of unknowns but one thing is certain: Many or most of the protesters, including or especially those espousing hateful and unhinged ideas, will be heavily armed, including with assault-style weapons.”
But that’s nothing compared to whacko WaPo columnist Petula Dvorak, who extrapolates from fringe rants and memes appearing on social media to “gun enthusiasts” at large. Continue reading
Peaceful rallies, please
by James A. Bacon
Gun rights advocates and militia members from around the country are planning to descend on Richmond later this month to protest the enactment of gun-control bills in the General Assembly. As the Washington Post reports, the Second Amendment sanctuary movement has jumped Virginia’s borders. “Far-right websites and commentators are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights.”
If you think this sounds like Charlottesville redux — a replay of the violent far-right Unite the Right rally of three years ago — you’re not the only one. Law-enforcement officials say they are monitoring the situation. Even Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he is keeping lines of communications open so all sides are prepared. “Hopefully it’ll not be another Charlottesville,” he said.
There are a couple of important differences this time. First, the Second Amendment movement in Virginia reflects a widespread popular sentiment, not the fringe views of mostly out-of-state Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Second, there is no indication yet that Antifa or other ultra-leftists are mobilizing to counter the gun-rights crowd. Third, there is always the possibility that law-enforcement authorities learned from their mistakes in Charlottesville and will be better prepared this time. And fourth, whether you agree with his politics or not, Van Cleave seems to have his head screwed on tight. Reports the WaPo: Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
In 2018, according to the Virginia State Police Crime in Virginia report, law enforcement authorities reported 305 juveniles and 3,931 adults arrested for “weapon law violations.” If Democrats tighten gun control laws and vigorously enforce them, we can be reasonably sure that the number of arrests will increase.
That could put Dems in an awkward place. As Cam Edwards points out on National Review, the most enthusiastic enforcement of the new laws will be in Democratic-controlled localities with high crime rates — Richmond, Petersburg, Norfolk, and Roanoke. Rural counties that have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries predictably will enforce the laws with less enthusiasm. Writes Edwards:
The vast majority of charges will be for non-violent possessory offenses, the vast majority of defendants will be black and Hispanic men from Virginia’s inner cities, and the vast majority of those defendants will not have any serious criminal history, although they may be heading down that road. Instead of offering these individuals a way out, however, Ralph Northam wants to give them a crash course in criminality by putting them in prison.
Wouldn’t that be ironic? Democrats are trying to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and reform the criminal justice system to reduce the disproportionate percentage of minorities behind bars. Yet, if Edwards is right, their gun control laws could disproportionately impact minorities.
Of course, there is a lot of supposition in Edwards’ argument. Let’s look at the numbers. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Enforcement of the laws of Virginia may become optional in Fairfax and Arlington Counties when newly elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys — Steve Descano in Fairfax and Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in Arlington — take office. Both have promised to stop prosecuting marijuana possession, reports the Washington Post.
Descano and Dehghani-Tafti said pot possession prosecutions do little to protect public safety, disproportionately fall on people of color, saddle defendants with damaging convictions and can be better spent on more serious crimes. …
Descano said the policy brings Fairfax County’s values into the courthouse. “I traveled around Fairfax County for over a year listening to people,” Descano said. “The thing that came up time and time again was simple possession of marijuana — how it was a waste of resources and led to unjust outcomes.”
The arguments against prosecuting pot possession are not unreasonable. Indeed, Governor Ralph Northam has proposed decriminalizing the offense. What’s disturbing is that the two prosecutors aren’t willing to wait for the General Assembly to enact a law this session, which would go into effect in July. They feel compelled to take legislative matters into their own hands and nullify the state law now in effect.
First sanctuary cities. Then second amendment sanctuaries. Now pot possession. The conviction is spreading across Virginia like a mutant flu virus that local officials are free to ignore laws they don’t like. Continue reading
Overflow attendance at Amelia County board of supervisors meeting.
by James A. Bacon
According to gun-rights groups, 87 Virginia counties, 10 cities, and 18 towns have adopted Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions. The magnitude of this grassroots movement is unprecedented in recent Virginia history. Nothing can compare, not even the Tea Party movement.
If you want to know what’s animating the gun-rights movement, though, you have to read conservative and right-wing websites and blogs. Virginia’s mainstream media is clueless. Virginia journalists working for the major media outlets, whose coverage reflects the preoccupations of urban liberals, didn’t see this coming. When the movement gained momentum, Virginia journalists were slow to catch on. And now that the movement has gained a full head of steam, Virginia journalists are getting scooped by out-of-state conservative publications.
Thus, we learn from the Washington Examiner — not the Washington Post, not the Richmond Times-Dispatch, not even the Roanoke Times — that Governor Ralph Northam has budgeted $4.8 million over two years to fund the creation of 18 positions to support proposed legislation “related to an assault weapons ban.” Gun rights advocates are interpreting this measure as hiring an 18-officer team to enforce an “assault weapons” ban, and they’re suggesting that Northam, despite promising to grandfather existing assault-weapons owners, may be planning to confiscate the weapons.
State law also requires any legislation that might increase the prison population over the succeeding six years to include a one-year General Fund appropriation to cover the estimated increase in prison operating costs. Another addition to the budget includes this text under the rubric of a projected increase “in the need for prison beds”: Continue reading
I’m not unsympathetic to Virginians who declare Second Amendment sanctuaries around the state. They’re an in-your-face retort to sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants. If liberals scheme to devise ways to evade laws they don’t like, don’t be surprised if conservatives do, too. But a good thing can go too far. Like when Second Amendment sanctuary counties establish “militias” to circumvent gun-control laws. And when paranoid delusion passes for fact on the Web, such as this certifiably insane Facebook quote attributed to Governor Ralph Northam:
You will give up your guns. If you don’t I’ll have the National Guard cut your power, your phone lines, and your internet. Then, if you still refuse to comply I’ll have you killed.
As the conservative Daily Caller News Foundation reports, there is no evidence that Northam ever said such a thing. Wow! The Daily Caller had to check? Northam has done a lot of things I don’t like, but I am 99.99% certain he’s not a blood-thirsty killer.
The Facebook post, published by a group purportedly called Americans Against the Republican and Democratic Parties, has been removed. The assertion is so reckless that I have to think it is Russian disinformation disseminated for the sole purpose of stirring up unrest. Russians will be Russians, and I don’t know there’s much we can do to keep them off the Internet. But, people, we don’t have to spread their agitprop! Everyone needs to chill out! Packing county supervisor meetings is a commendable exercise in civic rights. Spreading garbage on the Internet gives the Second Amendment sanctuary movement a bad image.
Wait! There’s more! Continue reading