by James A. Bacon
Virginia voters support gun control measures such as requiring background checks on all gun sales (86% to 13% margins), passing a “red flag” law (72% to 23%), and banning assault-style weapons (54% to 44%), according to a poll released today by the Wason Center for Public Policy. With that level of public support, we can take it for granted that the Democratic-controlled General Assembly will pass a slew of gun-control legislation in the 2022 General Assembly session.
If there’s one thing that gets Virginia conservatives riled up, it’s gun control. In one of the most impassioned grass roots movements Virginia has seen in recent years, rural locality after rural locality has declared itself a Second Amendment “sanctuary,” passing vague declarations in favor of gun-owner rights. (I have seen no comparable calls for Wage Sanctuaries in response to a proposed $15 minimum wage that would eviscerate the economies of the very same localities.)
And if there’s one thing that gets Virginia liberals and progressives riled up, it’s popular expressions of conservative sentiment. Last week Governor Ralph Northam said “there are going to be some consequences” if local law enforcement fails to enforce laws enacted by the General Assembly. Then, blowing gale-force winds on already troubled waters, Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, suggested a cut-off of state funds to counties that don’t comply with new measures. Then, unbelievably, he said this:
Ultimately, I’m not the governor, but the governor may have to nationalize the National Guard to enforce the law. That’s his call, because I don’t know how serious those counties are and how severe the violations of law will be. But that’s obviously an option he has.
Mobilize the National Guard? Are you kidding me?
Let me rephrase that question: Are you insane?
I count myself among the Virginians who would support limited tightening of gun control laws. I would like to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, domestic abusers and severely mentally ill people — as long as the measures don’t unreasonably restrict the rights of mentally stable, law-abiding gun owners. (Yeah, I know, the issues get very prickly when you try to deprive someone of his/her rights before they have committed a crime.) I also agree that a reasonable way to limit such peoples’ access to guns is to conduct background checks. Like many Virginians, I’m on the fence when it comes to assault weapons.
But if there’s one way to stampede me in the direction of opposition to gun control, it’s to invoke the mobilization of the National Guard to enforce the law.
You see, a big argument of gun-rights advocates is that an armed citizenry is a check on the power of an all-powerful state. In normal times, that sounds like crazy talk. In what universe would citizens need to guns to resist the coercive power of the state?
In a universe in which liberal/progressives like Don McEachin invoke scenarios of mobilizing the National Guard to enforce the law. Which happens to be the same universe in which a recent Office of the Inspector General report laid bare numerous FBI transgressions in seeking FISA warrants on Carter Page as part of a larger Russian-collusion investigation into the Trump campaign. “In our view,” concluded the OIG, “this was a failure of not only the operational team, but also of the managers and supervisors, including senior officials, in the chain of command.”
After the indisputable findings of the OIG report and the fizzling of the Mueller investigation (and much else), conservatives are pretty touchy these days about the overweening power of the state. As a liberal member of Congress residing in Washington, D.C., McEachin lives in a different fact/news/values universe from conservatives residing in, say, Campbell County or Chesapeake. Peruse the press releases issued by his office, and you’ll a statement decrying the Nov. 18 shooting in Fresno but not one word of concern about the FBI’s FISA court abuses. He is clueless how threatening his National Guard ruminations will be perceived in Red State America.
Fortunately, the National Guard has responded with a Twitter post calculated to soothe raw nerves.
We have received multiple questions regarding proposed legislation for the 2020 General Assembly session and the authority of the Governor of Virginia to employ the Virginia National Guard in a law enforcement role.
We understand and respect the passion people feel for the U.S. Constitution and 2nd Amendment rights. We will not speculate about the possible use of the Virginia National Guard.
Hopefully, that will be the end of it. Hopefully, the General Assembly will enact reasonable gun control legislation in 2020. Hopefully, gun rights advocates will respect the new laws, even if they don’t like them. And, if they find ways to evade the laws short of outright defiance, hopefully, McEachin will refrain from inflaming the situation and Governor Northam will find ways to deal with the situation short of sending in the National Guard.There are currently no comments highlighted.