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By Tony Shaffer and Pete O’Brien
In the capital, a new government is sworn in. They have promised substantial - some might say radical - changes from previous policies and laws. Some, labeled as radicals and reactionaries by those in power, suggest the new laws will deny fundamental rights and grant to the government powers that it should not have. Those in power say the planned actions are necessary for the safety of all concerned, especially those that might cause unrest, and stir up violence. We need to act now, for the future, for the next generation. Fast and decisive action is needed to prevent bloodshed and curb violence.
We might be talking about Richmond in 2020. But in fact we’re talking about Berlin in 1933…
Governor Ralph Northam had better pray hard that his declaration of a State of Emergency due to the threats of “armed militia groups storming our Capitol” ahead of a gun-rights rally next week does not backfire! Such a wide publication of his decision to turn what is likely to be a very large gathering of angry citizens - exercising their First amendment rights of free speech, and the right to peacefully assemble - into a “gun-free” demonstration of government power, will possibly entice the attention of more extremists than those arrested Thursday by the FBI, from both ends of the activist spectrum.
Should, God forbid, any of his Commonwealth citizens end up as victims of violence who were unable to deter assailants or defend themselves against violence due to his actions, he can reasonably expect condemnation and blame as a minimum. Political moves carry risk, but usually those risks are to the politician. In this case we see a Governor putting at risk the lives of his constituents. He does not seem to have considered the benefits of having a large presence of responsibly armed citizens at a political event.
“Let me be clear. These are considered credible, serious threats by our law enforcement agencies,” said Governor Northam at a press conference. If true, and we await confirmation from said law enforcement agencies themselves, this knee-jerk reaction imposing a ban on guns at what is likely to prove one of the most heavily attended “Lobby Day” in decades is possibly ill-advised.
Indubitably, Northam will point to the arrests on Thursday of 3 men in Delaware and Maryland by the FBI on federal charges including, amongst others, “transporting a firearm and ammunition with intent to commit a felony” and claim vindication. It is however worth wondering if these men planned an attack prior to the Governor’s announcement of a gun ban? If so, were they planning some sort of suicidal mass casualty assault on gun-carrying Second Amendment activists or were they instead planning to attend the rally peacefully to try and find more like-minded extremists?
Then there is the possibility that Governor Northam’s gun ban through declaring a State of Emergency might have tempted them into changing their plans to mount a mass shooting – pure speculation, to be sure, but not beyond the realms of possibility. Perhaps the law enforcement agencies might provide informed comment on their intentions, which from press reports appear to have been in the works for at least several months (which would be several months prior to the Governor’s disarming of the likely crowds)?
We have the media and the left demanding the intelligence be released to “prove” that Qassem Soleimani was planning to do more harm to American GIs - after 22 years of concerted action. Where is the demand to see the intelligence that justifies the de facto suspension of citizens’ Rights?
Governor Northam cited the example of the mayhem that arose at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, stating “We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here.” Good! Banning cars near crowds is probably an excellent idea, but banning guns carried by law-abiding citizens is not only an infringement of their rights under the Second Amendment, but a bad one from the public safety point of view and utterly irrelevant from the Charlottesville perspective.
By creating another “gun-free” zone he is, in fact, inviting violence. Over the last 20 years, 9 out of every 10 mass shootings have taken place in “gun-free” zones! Furthermore, if you wish to find the cities in this nation with the strictest anti-gun laws, all you need do is find those cities with the most murders and the highest violent crime rates. We can think of no better deterrent to gun violence than a large crowd of heavily armed, law-abiding citizens. After all, as noted by author Robert Heinlein, “An armed society is a polite society."
And lest anyone think it is right-wing extremists who are the threat; read, watch and listen to this Bernie campaign organizer:
So, before we go too far afield, let’s give some thought to our actions, Governor, before you shred the Bill of Rights.
Tony Shaffer is President of the London Center for Policy Research and a recognized expert in Counter-terrorism.
Pete O’Brien is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, a retired Naval Officer and a successful business owner.
Both are staunch supporters of The Constitution and citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia.