Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is determined to enact strict new gun control laws, and pro-Second Amendment Virginians are more than a little fired up. Does the governor’s budget allow for the forced confiscation of common semi-automatic firearms legally owned by Virginians since the commonwealth’s inception in 1776? Just the thought of it has those who value their right to own guns ready to go on the offensive.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) is organizing a lobbying effort for Monday, Jan. 20. As the issue of gun rights has become a political hot potato in the commonwealth, expectations are that a sizable, vocal group will converge on the capital city of Richmond. Liberty Nation legal affairs editor and member of the VCDL, Scott Cosenza, has been covering this potential firestorm from the moment Northam declared his intentions to go after the guns of law-abiding Virginians. Cosenza’s extensive, original reporting on the subject has kept Liberty Nation readers ahead of the curve on the situation. He observes:
“It’s the gun control bills that have produced the biggest response – an avalanche of opposition by Virginia gun owners. Senate Bill 16, which was filed 11 days after the election, bans many common firearms, including the AR-15, and does not grandfather them in. A more aggressive mission to destroy the guns – and the right to own them – of Virginians could hardly be devised. If the legislation were to pass, gun owners in Virginia would have to sell or surrender their firearms or become felons. Hence the backlash.”
As a result, 90% of Virginia’s counties and many of its independent cities have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.” Following such a vehement rebuke, Northam recently backed away from promising outright confiscation of currently owned semi-auto weapons. Instead, he demands that gun owners register “grandfathered” weapons with the state. But this does not appear to be an acceptable compromise to those who own firearms in Virginia.
“Gun owners have risen to challenge the proposals,” Cosenza reports, “not in the legislature just yet, but at the county and city levels. Under a massive pressure wall, those local governments have, at a furious pace, adopted Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions, forbidding local officials from acting in opposition to the Second Amendment.”
A Sticky Situation
Should Northam’s gun control mandates pass the Democrat-held legislature, can we expect the masses to comply? If past is prologue, then perhaps not. New York and Connecticut have tried similar laws that mandated firearm registration, with only around 3% registering their weapons. What, then, would Virginia authorities do if a multitude – or even a minority of people – defy the order? Again, we look to Connecticut and New York. If these states are any indication, the answer is nothing. Nevertheless, should commonwealth citizens refuse to comply, many Virginians will essentially become “paper felons.”
However, if gun confiscation raids are attempted, Virginians have the fallback of armed resistance, for which there is a precedent; in the so-called “Battle of Athens” of 1946, armed Tennesseans – many of them WWII veterans – laid siege to the local jail to prevent corrupt county officials from rigging an election by stuffing the ballot boxes.
Here’s where things begin to get sticky. The current battle over legal guns is troublesome because the firearms we have today are more refined than they were in the post-World War II era. Today, rifles are capable of 300 to 1000-yard precision shots. The population that may resist these new regulations has many of these weapons in its possession. One must ask what kind of confrontations could take place between citizens and authorities with these types of weapons at hand?
Exacerbating the escalating tension between Virginia gun rights advocates and gun grabbers is proposed legislation from Delegate Mark Levine (D-VA 45). He is the chief sponsor of five separate gun control bills. One of Levine’s bills calls for a revised ban on so-called “assault weapons,” requiring existing gun owners to register their firearms with the state. It also forbids the possession of magazines that can hold more than ten rounds. As well, it prohibits private ownership of suppressors and trigger activators. Trigger activators are devices designed to allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly.
Ratcheting Down the Rhetoric
Before any gun confiscation raids are mandated, any action that Gov. Northam takes regarding firearm ownership in the Commonwealth of Virginia will almost certainly be challenged in the courts. Given the potentially dire consequences, these legal disputes may quickly rise to both the state Supreme and U.S. Supreme Court levels.
The current tensions over the Second Amendment in Virginia harken back to an armed conflict slightly more famous than the Battle of Athens: That would be the Revolutionary War. Historians will note that Virginia was the seat of this struggle, not simply in the writing of the founding documents but with the contribution of the man who led our troops to victory, General George Washington.
L. Neil Smith, the famous libertarian science fiction writer, reminds us of the moment the Revolution stated: “… As it is, the fight began with an attempt by 1200 Redcoats (which ended for them in a humiliating rout) to confiscate private weaponry at Lexington and Concord. They should have known better — I’ll bet a lot of them did.”
Virginia’s legislators would be wise to remember this.
Read more from Lorraine Silvetz.