Earlier today, my colleague Tom Knighton highlighted the FBI memo warning of armed protests taking place at all 50 state capitols starting this Saturday, along with an “armed group” that has threatened to travel to Washington, D.C., during the same time period “to stage an uprising if Congress removes President Donald Trump from office.”
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we get into why this is such a bad idea and should be avoided, starting with the fact that whatever unnamed group is calling for the armed protests are encouraging gun owners to break the law in many states, even if the protests were to remain peaceful. Then, of course, there’s the lack of information about who is behind these supposed protests, as well as the fact that they won’t stop Joe Biden from being inaugurated on January 20th but could push more Americans (and politicians) towards supporting new gun control laws.
There is, however, at least one event that has been on the books for quite some time, has an official affiliation with a 2A group, and is promoting a peaceful, nonviolent gathering on the part of gun owners. Early last year the Virginia Citizens Defense League scheduled its annual Lobby Day for this January 18th (the group typically holds their event on Martin Luther King, Jr Day in order to allow for increased participation), and VCDL president Phillip Van Cleave says that the event will take place next Monday as scheduled.
After being denied a permit to rally on the Virginia Capitol grounds, VCDL has asked supporters to participate in a vehicle caravan in the area. The General Assembly won’t be meeting at the Capitol due to COVID-19 precautions.
In online discussions about the VCDL event, some of the group’s supporters questioned whether it was still wise to proceed in the aftermath of riots at the U.S. Capitol, urging organizers to cancel. They worried the planned format would resemble the “Trump Trains” organized by the president’s most fervent supporters. But other members wrote that canceling could be perceived as giving in to pro-gun control groups.
In an interview, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave seemed firmly in the latter camp.
“What happened in D.C. had nothing whatsoever to do with us,” Van Cleave said, adding there have been “unfortunate” acts of political violence “happening around the country.”
I’m scheduled to speak via an online stream during the Lobby Day activities, which, as the NBC 12 story mentions, won’t actually be taking place on the state Capitol grounds in Richmond. I’m not sure that the VCDL cancelling Lobby Day would do much to stop folks from traveling to Richmond on their own at this point anyway.
As I make clear on today’s show, however, the purpose of Lobby Day is to lobby; to be seen and heard by lawmakers and to try to persuade them or thank them for supporting good legislation and rejecting bad bills. It’s about being a part of the political process, not trying to shut it down or subvert it. If you’re planning on going with some other agenda in mind, stay home. If you’re not there to be a positive force for gun owners and our right to keep and bear arms, don’t show up at all.
Last year at Lobby Day, we saw tens of thousands of gun owners from across the political spectrum peacefully gather in downtown Richmond in a massive show of opposition to the gun control laws proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam. There was only one arrest; ironically enough, for wearing a mask. Even those charges were dropped the following month when prosecutors recognized that the reason why 21-year old Mikaela Beschler was wearing her mask was to simply keep her face warm on a bitterly cold January day.
Phillip Van Cleave says that this year’s event shouldn’t be cancelled because “we can’t stop every time there’s a potential threat. They’ll just keep doing it and we won’t be able to ever have an event again of any sort.” I think that’s right, but we also have to recognize that bad actors could very well try to co-opt Lobby Day for their own purposes, and we need to preemptively call out any attempt to do so. VCDL’s Lobby Day has been taking place without issue for nearly 20 years now. Everyone who participates knows what the goal of the event is. It’s about advancing our political agenda, not kicking off a revolution.
There is no justification for violence in Richmond on Monday. None. Anyone instigating an act of violence isn’t a patriot or a Second Amendment supporter, and won’t be supported by the Second Amendment community, which is, after all, based around the mutual support for the individual right of armed self-defense. Political violence isn’t self-defense. If you really want to know how the Founders viewed the individual right to keep and bear arms as part of the protection against a tyrannical federal government, read Federalist 46. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t involve individual acts of political violence.
This is an election year in Virginia, with the state offices of governor, lt. governor, and attorney general up for grabs along with every seat in the House of Delegates. It’s an opportunity for Second Amendment supporters to gain back some ground lost in 2019. I suspect that the attack on the U.S. Capitol has already created some political headwinds in the state, but any further political violence surrounding Lobby Day will cripple the chances of electing strong supporters of the right to keep and bear arms and will also almost certainly give Democrats the political excuse they need to ram through Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun ban bill.
In recent weeks the governor has backed away from pushing the ban on modern sporting rifles, “high capacity” magazines, and suppressors. That would change in an instant if he believed that Democrats could pass it without suffering political consequences at the polls in November, and any violence surrounding Lobby Day would give him the excuse he needs. If that’s why you’re going to Richmond next week, don’t go at all.