Category Archives: Gun rights

Our Gutsy Governor

By Peter Galuszka

On June 24, 2015, Nikki Haley, a Republican who was South Carolina’s first non-white governor, called for the removal of a Confederate flag that had been flying over the state’s capitol grounds for years.

“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said. Her action came a few days after an avowed white supremacist walked into an African-American church and opened fire, killing church members attending a service.

I was watching the news on TV when she made her gutsy move. I was deeply impressed.

And now, Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is governor of Virginia, has taken a similarly gutsy move. He has ordered that the state-owned statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee be removed from its stand on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It has been there for about 130 years, erected by white supremacists with deep sentiment for their romantic myths of Southern history.

“I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from our past and we all know that our country needs that example right now,” Northam said. Continue reading

The Real Danger with ANTIFA

By Peter Galuszka

Get ready. The names of all kinds of leftist organizations are going to be kicked around as the masterminds behind violent, cop-beating looters, especially the so-called ANTIFA movement in Virginia and across the country..

But what is reality? I don’t have clear answers but I have some ideas to share since I have been dealing with activist groups since I was in high school in the late 1960s. I hope they help this blog’s discussion.

First, there’s plenty of research available about ANTIFA and there are already plenty of reports about it. It is not a single group but a very loose collection of autonomous activist groups, most of which do not advocate violence. For reference, see yesterday’s Daily Beast piece with the blunt headline, “Trump’s ‘ANTIFA Threat Is Total Bullshit – And Totally Dangerous.”

That article and plenty of others note that ANTIFA, or whatever it is, has no clear chain of command and uses ultra-fast social media to alert other activists about rallies and protests but has no control over them. If you are thinking about the tightly-controlled and secretive Communist cells of the past century, you are not getting it. Continue reading

WTJU Podcast: COVID-19 and the Economy

By Peter Galuszka

Here’s is the twice-monthly podcast produced by WTJU, the official radio station of the University of Virginia. With me on this podcast  are Nathan Moore, the station general manager, and Sarah Vogelsong, who covers, labor, energy and environmental issues across the state for the Virginia Mercury, a fairly new and highly regarded non-profit news outlet. Our topic is how Virginia is handling the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why Northam Is Such An Important Governor

By Peter Galuszka

This is a bit like throwing chum at a school of sharks, but here is my latest in Style Weekly.

I wrote an assessment of Gov. Ralph Northam that is overall, quite positive. My take goes against much of the sentiment of other contributors on this blog.

They are entitled to their views but, to be honest, I find some of the essays shrill and not really fact based. If Northam wants to delay elective surgeries at hospitals for a week or so, some want to empanel a grand jury.

An acute care health facility in Henrico County becomes one of the most notorious hot spots for coronavirus deaths and it is immediately Northam’s fault even though the care center has had serious problems that long predated the governor’s term in office.

He’s a trained physician who served as an Army doctor in combat during the Iraq War yet he is vilified as being incompetent and incapable of understanding the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s like the constant repetition of the “Sins of Hillary” on Breitbart and Fox News about emails and Benghazi.

Like him or not, Northam is bound to be one of the most consequential governors in Virginia history given the gigantic problem of the pandemic. He’s not a showboat salesman like Terry McAuliffe nor a smarmy, small-time crook like Robert F. McDonnell.

Anyway, here’s the piece.

Right Wing Uses Virus To Stifle Needed Reforms

Statue of Gov. Harry F. Byrd on the state capitol grounds.

By Peter Galuszka

Right-wingers in Virginia have been apoplectic for months that Democrats finally captured the General Assembly after years of Republican control.

They also were enraged that the legislature this winter passed a number of reforms that would draw Virginia into the 21st Century such raising the minimum wage, boosting collective bargaining, tightening rules on carbon pollution and raising taxes for cigarettes, a deadly product.

Now such conservatives are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to throttle or delay such needed reforms. They have banded into groups such as the Coalition fort a Strong Virginia Economy. They have used the Virginia Municipal League’s complaints against the reforms, claiming they cost too much, as a way to derail new measures.

According to the left-leaning blog site Blue Virginia, one of the more extreme advocates for scrambling changes is Dave LaRock, a far-right Republican delegate from Loudoun County. A pronounced gay-basher, LaRock wants to squelch all of the reforms made by the more progressive General Assembly. Continue reading

Virginia Dems Shoot Down Assault Weapons Bill

I am pleased to announce an affiliation with KerryDougherty.com published by former Virginian-Pilot columnist Kerry Dougherty. Kerry writes on a wide range of topics pertaining to politics and popular culture from a conservative perspective, and she has given us permission to re-post her commentary regarding the follies and foibles of Virginia here on Bacon’s Rebellion. — JAB

by Kerry Dougherty

After I wrote a piece last week revealing where Rep. Elaine Luria hid during the State of the Union address, one reader – we’ll call her Joan – left a comment on my Facebook page.

“Why don’t you ever write anything positive about Democrats?” she lamented.

“Like what, Joan?” I replied.

Crickets.

Well, Joan, this one’s for you. Turns out there are some anti-gun measures that even Virginia Democrats can’t stomach. As a result, I have something very positive to say about Creigh Deeds, John Edwards, Chap Petersen and Scott Surovell, the four Senate Democrats who boldly broke ranks with the anti-gun zealots running their party to vote against the so-called “assault weapons” bill. Continue reading

Inside the (Pin) Heads of White Supremacists

Patrik Mathews (left) and Brian Lemley at a store in Delaware where they purchased 150 rounds for target practice.

by James A. Bacon

Remember those three white supremacists the FBI arrested four days before the big gun-rights rally? They referred to themselves as “The Base,” peddled their vile ideology online, discussed committing acts of violence, engaged in para-military training, and assembled a “functioning assault rifle.” The FBI, which had been closely monitoring the group, scooped up the three men when they were holed up in Delaware before they could descend upon the Richmond rally and afflict violence.

The Washington Post, New York Times, and other publications ran articles highlighting fears that the Richmond rally might turn into another Charlottesville, and Governor Ralph Northam imposed a state of emergency, stating, “I took this action to protect Virginians from credible threats of violence. These threats are real — as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.”

Fortunately, most neo-Nazis and white supremacists are not only losers, they’re morons. (I hope I’m not offending anyone with my “ablist” nomenclature.) Federal documents relating to Brian Mark Lemley J., Patrik Jordan Mathews, and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, detail not only their odious views and evolving plans but their malign stupidity. Continue reading

Guns for Teen Killers?

by Hans Bader

Virginia’s legislature may make it easier for people who killed or raped as teens to later possess or transport a gun. Ironically, this is being proposed at the same time that the legislature is restricting gun possession by law-abiding adults.

Legislation sponsored by senior Democratic legislators would raise the age for trying many juveniles as adults from 14 to 16. It would also change the law to allow certain 14- or 15-year-olds who commit “murder,” “rape,” or “kidnapping,” to later “possess or transport” a gun.

The bill, HB 274, would limit the reach of the Virginia law restricting “Possession or transportation of firearms, firearms ammunition, stun weapons, explosives or concealed weapons by convicted felons,” by crossing out the word “14” and replacing it with “16.” As revised, that law, § 18.2-308.2(A), would read: “It shall be unlawful for…(ii) any person adjudicated delinquent as a juvenile 14 16 years of age or older at the time of the offense of murder in violation of § 18.2-31 or 18.2-32, kidnapping in violation of § 18.2-47, robbery…in violation of § 18.2-58, or rape in violation of § 18.2-61….to knowingly and intentionally possess or transport any firearm.” Continue reading

Legislators, Don’t Forget: Virginia Has 4th Lowest Violent Crime Rate in Country

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

Richmond During the Rally: The Safest City in Virginia

Wait? What? Where were all the white supremacists?

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

Thoughts on the Big Pro Gun Rally

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

Tensions Build as Gun-Rights Rally Nears

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

And One More Thing…

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

Cool Your Jets, Dudes

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

Bacon Bits: Elections Have Consequences Edition

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