WaPo Escalates Gun-Rights Rhetoric

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.

The gun guys are scared out of their minds that someone’s going to come and take their guns. (Again, fantasy.)

They live in a make-believe world where they are the heroes and the patriots under attack.

They are retweeting old photos of white U.N. trucks saying they are “gun control shock troops” coming in to disarm Virginians. (Debunked by Snopes.com in 2016.)

They’ve issued threats against Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

They are recruiting military and law enforcement members to come in and train posses and militias across the state. …

This time, they’re going to try a new fantasy, as they plan to gather in Richmond in January for a rally to rival the fatal disaster in Charlottesville.

It’s hard to know who is more unhinged and disconnected from reality, the far right-wing kooks in the recesses of the Internet… or Dvorak.

Who is this “they” she is talking about? She is equating the whack-jobs who spread the U.N.-is-coming-to-take-your-guns tweet and the nut-cases who threatened Governor Ralph Northam to gun-rights advocates generally, and then in a paranoid leap of logic suggests that they are planning to gather in Richmond for “a rally to rival the fatal disaster in Charlottesville.”

Contrast Dvorak’s blunderbuss rhetoric to that of Philip Van Cleave, head of the most visible gun-rights group in Virginia, the Virginia Citizens Defense League. The Jan. 20 rally, he says on the League website, is a day for lobbying and “sending a message” to lawmakers. Readers, please take note: Van Cleave is not repeating the memes cited by Dvorak. To the contrary, he makes it clear that nothing has yet been decided. Says he (my bold face):

While there have been some verbal threats by the Democrat leadership to push major gun control down the throats of Virginia’s gun owners and some very bad bills already filed to back up that threat, NOTHING has happened yet and won’t until after Jan. 8. And perhaps it won’t happen at all, if we press hard enough.

In reference to the offers of various militia groups to “provide security” — “gracious” offers in his diplomatic words — Van Cleave says, “We have the security base covered nicely.” Some militia groups, he noted approvingly, are looking to deliver canned food donations to a Richmond Food Bank.

Van Cleave asks that rally participants not carry long guns, which would create a distraction. And he makes it clear that the event is about gun rights, and only gun rights, not flags, statues, history, or any of the Alt-right hot button issues. Van Cleave wants to mobilize “Minutemen” who can provide large turnouts at General Assembly hearings on short notice and “flood the room with people wearing Guns Save Lives stickers.” He also wants to to “melt down the phones” and “flood the email in-boxes” of legislators. Standard political stuff. Richmond is not heading for a Charlottesville-style confrontation.

Dvorak does cite another “gun enthusiast” source, Ammoland, a purveyor of shooting sports “news.” More militant than the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Ammoland is encouraging out-of-state groups to join the rally. Especially disturbing, Ammoland is disseminating factually inaccurate information — though not the social media memes that Dvorak mentions. Among its irresponsible claims, Ammoland accuses Northam of violating not only the Second Amendment but seeking to criminalize free speech and assembly, confiscate guns without due process, ban entire categories of weapons “essential to a well-regulated militia,” and criminalize normal, wholesome family shooting activities.”

The truth of the matter, as best I can discern it, is that the vast majority of Virginia gun-rights advocates are responsible, law-abiding citizens, and have no desire to provoke a confrontation in Richmond with anyone. Unfortunately, zealots from outside the state have taken an interest in the rally and are escalating the rhetoric with irresponsible statements — just like the Washington Post is doing.