Gun-owners are not a threat to the public

The liberal elite’s hysterical response to a pro-gun rally in Virginia shows how out of touch it is.

Kevin Yuill

Topics Politics USA

Last week, there was a large rally in the Virginia capitol to protest against four pieces of gun-control legislation, three of which have been passed and one which is still being debated. Many of the protestors attended with rifles and shotguns. The police estimate that 22,000 people attended the protest. Six thousand unarmed protestors queued up to go through metal detectors allowing them into the main protest. Those who did not want to give up their arms milled around in the surrounding streets.

The rally, organised by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, occurs every year. But this year the numbers swelled because of the new controls implemented by the Democratic governor Ralph Northam. Marchers responded to a clarion call from the Republican president Donald Trump. He warned: ‘Your Second Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away.’

At first blush – and particularly to those viewing these events from abroad, where gun controls are more extensive – the measures appear reasonable. Senate Bill (SB) 35 creates ‘gun-free zones’ in public parks, in and around public buildings, and in other specified areas. SB69 restricts people from buying more than one handgun per month. SB70 ensures that the private sale and trade of firearms is regulated. And Senate Bill 240 creates the possibility of ‘red flag’ firearm confiscation.

But look more closely at the implications of these new bills and the ire of the marchers becomes more understandable. First, SB35 grants local authorities the authority to ban firearms, ammunition, and firearm and ammunition components in gun-free zones that could pop up anywhere. It would be impossible to predict where a gun-free zone will appear. They will potentially cover areas surrounding ‘an event that would otherwise require a permit’, which includes everything from an impromptu protest to other large informal gatherings. God help the gun enthusiast with a stray round of ammunition in his vehicle or bag, or a hunter with just an empty shotgun shell in her pocket.

The handgun rationing is entirely unnecessary. There is already a federal requirement to monitor multiple handgun purchases made within five days of each other. What’s more, Virginia had similar legislation in place between 1993 and 2012, and it had no discernible effect on gun crime. SB70 effectively prevents people from selling weapons without conducting background checks, including to immediate family members or lifelong friends. A grandfather would not be able to give his grandson his first rifle in exchange for cutting his grass over a summer without onerous and pointless paperwork.

SB240, which has yet to pass, means that a heavily armed police force could descend upon a citizen’s home and seize all of their weapons based on ‘probable cause’. If a Virginian does not like her neighbour, she can report that he may be a danger to himself or others and his weapons will be seized.

No existing gun-control legislation passed in individual states has had any discernible effect on preventing crime or suicide. Nor are these latest measures at all necessary in Virginia: of all 50 states, only Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have a lower violent crime rate than Virginia. Virginia’s murder rate is lower than the average for the US and has been coming down.

So what is this legislation about? Quite simply, it is motivated by emotion, by fear and loathing of blue-collar Americans. Such animosity is even more apparent in the commentary about the march. Much of it added up to a vicious attack on a culture the elite does not understand and from which it recoils in horror.

Because of comparisons made by pundits with the Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, where a counter-protester was killed, the organiser of the Virginia gun-rights march, Philip Van Cleave, issued a statement saying that, ‘We are not there to push any other agenda. Our total focus is on protecting our right to keep and bear arms. Period. This is not about flags, statues, history, etc. Just guns.’

But anti-gun activists had other ideas what the march was about. It was violent and racist. Governor Northam declared a state of emergency before the gathering. In a hysterical executive order, he claimed that ‘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’. Accordingly, the FBI – just hours after Northam’s intervention – arrested three men allegedly involved in ‘white power’ plots who, the FBI said, planned to attend the rally.

The final tally of fatalities, injuries, arrests at the march itself is striking – just one arrest. A 21-year-old woman was arrested for failing to remove a bandana covering her face. That’s it. The idea of violence, riot, and insurrection existed only in the fevered imaginations of anti-gun politicians and commentators. The rally was, by all accounts, good humoured and peaceful.

But that wasn’t good enough. ‘Intimidation is not peaceful’, said Andrew Goddard, the legislative director for the Virginia Center for Public Safety. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch went one better: ‘Call Richmond’s MLK Day gun rally what it was: An outbreak of terrorism on American soil.’

Despite the fact that racial minorities attended the rally, and despite the insistence of the march organisers, many liberal commentators condemned the rally in racial terms. One described it as ‘dominated by cisgender, straight white folks’, embodying, according to another account , ‘white privilege and white fragility’. David Hogg, co-founder of the anti-gun March For Our Lives, tweeted that the marchers ‘only want guns to enforce white supremacy’.

Al Sharpton accused the marchers of effectively cancelling Martin Luther King Day, conveniently forgetting that African-Americans have historically been the targets for gun controls (they are 3.2 times as likely to be convicted of firearms offences, according to the FBI). In 1956, King was denied a gun permit to defend himself and his family as the government saw his movement as a threat.

Those seeking more gun controls clearly do so from an emotive reaction not only to the sight of firearms but also to the kind of people who carry them. They fail to recognise what this rally clearly demonstrated – that gun owners can be trusted with their weapons and do not pose a threat to the public.

Kevin Yuill teaches American studies at the University of Sunderland. His book, Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalisation, is published by Palgrave Macmillan. (Buy this book from Amazon (UK).)

Picture by: Getty.

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29th January 2020 at 10:43 pm

If anybody disagrees with me on the need to ban guns in this country, I’ll shoot them.


29th January 2020 at 10:44 pm

Only joking, of course.

nick hunt

30th January 2020 at 2:46 pm

So will my jokes be allowed here today?

Forlorn Dream

29th January 2020 at 1:26 pm

There are good arguments to be made for either side but it just comes down to this, one side likes guns and the other side hates people who like guns.

nick hunt

29th January 2020 at 6:52 pm

Obviously false: people need work but may hate their jobs. People need self-defence but may hate the guns they may feel forced to buy. That typically happens when politicians blame guns and not criminals for gun crimes, when they disarm innnocent, law-abiding citizens, not the criminals who will always obtain deadly firearms. Sceptics should check areas of the USA where private gun ownership is highest. They will find that gun deaths (and crime rates more generally) in these areas are also the lowest.


29th January 2020 at 9:43 am

About 40,000 gun deaths a year in the US and you think everything is OK? The Second Amendment was written for a new country with no standing army. Semi-automatic weapons are no use against a nuclear-armed state.

Nick Catt

29th January 2020 at 11:30 am

36,000 gun deaths per year of which 61% are suicides. 65% of intentional homicide by illegal firearms.

So 4,914 homicides by legal gun owners.

I’m neither pro nor anti gun, it’s a complex debate, but bandying about gun death figures without any details helps no-one understand the situation.

Nick Catt

29th January 2020 at 11:38 am

I should add that 500 of those deaths are by the cops.

Neil John

29th January 2020 at 2:13 pm

Actually it’s nearer a 1,000 killed by being shot by the Police in the USA most years.

nick hunt

29th January 2020 at 6:59 pm

Remove the top 5 US cities from the gun statistics (all Democrat controlled, with many gun restrictions) and you will find that gun-related deaths decrease hugely, making redneck America among the safest countries in the world. NB will Spiked be deleting my comments on this forum too? Even HuffPost doesn’t do that…

nick hunt

29th January 2020 at 7:00 pm

Remove the top 5 US cities from the gun statistics (all Democrat controlled, with many gun restrictions) and you will find that gun-related deaths decrease hugely, making small town America among the safest countries in the world. NB will Spiked be deleting my comments on this forum too? Even HuffPost doesn’t do that…

Jim Lawrie

29th January 2020 at 9:07 am

It always has to be borne in mind that this applies to legal gun ownership.

It is correct to say that this legislation targets the law abiding white working class because its supporters make no mention of those who use illegal weapons to commit crimes, and such legislation in no way addresses this murderous demographic.
The liberal left train their sights on their traditional enemy because they think they are an easy target.

Banning handguns in the UK had no downward effect on crime committed with illegal weapons brought in from Europe.

Joyful Cynic

29th January 2020 at 11:54 am

All the UK handgun ban achieved was forcing sensible law-abiding people to give up a hobby, a sport, and the tangible inheritance from much-loved relatives. It hurt the good and had no impact on the bad. Pointless.


29th January 2020 at 12:49 pm

What legitimate use could there be for a handgun in the UK? They are not used for hunting, so why would you need one?

Neil John

29th January 2020 at 2:29 pm

Pointless? Hardly, it did two things, it enacted the ‘small (easily concealable) firearms’ restrictions wanted by the EU globalists, who like their German forebears realised having such things available legally might give the people the means to resist and strike back against oppression. And it made the IRA’s ‘retribution squads’ lives easier and safer, my Uncle now dead of old age, was warned by his former Gov’t dept. contact unit his details like many others had been passed by Bliar to the IRA as part of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ as he’d drawn his issue sidearm (pistol) and pointed it at an IRA terrorist. Like many he’d been issued a small pistol for self defence upon retirement, it was confiscated by dint of the ‘Firearms scapegoat act 1997’, target pistol shooters were justifiable collateral damage in the grand scheme. Banned it country became bandit country shortly after.

Gabe Syme

29th January 2020 at 4:20 pm

Zenobia, first off I reject the common assertation that self-defence is not a valid reason to own firearms. I think we should follow the Czech Republic, many US states and plenty of other nations around the world and go back to having people be legally allowed to owned firearms for self defence. However, that said, handguns are actually commonly used in hunting. Both directly, as handgun hunting is very popular in the US with large bore revolvers, with many models of revolver being made for this purpose and indeed many calibers emerging solely for the purpose of game hunting with handguns, but also for humane dispatch of wounded animals. Indeed, it might interest you to know that it’s not unheard of here in the UK for people to get normal handguns (some restricted by magazine capacity or cylinders being welded, but others not) on a Firearms Certificate for humane dispatch. I know of one man who has a .45 LC derringer for the UK and a .45 ACP Taurus 1911 clone for when he travels to Germany for boar hunting, both legally owned and held in the UK. Furthermore there are plenty of target disciplines which use pistols, and we also have the collecting and historical interest in old handguns.

nick hunt

30th January 2020 at 2:52 pm

Why do we need guns? To defend ourselves and our loved ones from criminals who will always find illegal guns. To save lives when ineffective police never arrive. Discuss: ‘Governments who disarm law-abiding citizens are manna from heaven for bad guys’ (saying bad guys don’t exist not acceptable).

Ven Oods

29th January 2020 at 8:19 am

While I’m glad I live in a country where guns are (still) refreshingly rare, I can see how it would be difficult to reverse the history and expectation of gun ownership in many areas of the USA. Probably, it would need to be a gradual process with more general acceptance of the aims of reducing the number of guns available. It looks increasingly like those who own guns don’t trust the motives of the authorities in trying to remove or limit the weapons.

Jon Barrow

29th January 2020 at 2:46 pm

It’s complex. Highest rate of gun ownership in Europe? Switzerland of course.


29th January 2020 at 10:42 pm

Swiss have a citizen army, very high levels of gun ownership and very low levels of gun crime. Maybe the Americans are just nuts…

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