Virginia Del. Mark Levine, author of the sweeping gun, magazine, and suppressor ban known as HB961, says an armed protester outside of his Alexandria, Virginia home over the weekend was there to intimidate him, and he’s demanding local police arrest the Second Amendment activist.
Brandon Howard took to Facebook last week and published Levine’s home address, encouraging other gun owners to protest outside of Levine’s home in advance of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on the gun ban legislation. From all accounts, it looks like no one took Howard up on his offer, but he still engaged in his solitary protest, much to Levine’s displeasure.
Last weekend, before the state Senate voted on the bill, Howard issued a call to action.
“We’re going to tell Mark Levine: We know where you live and armed citizens of the Commonwealth are going to come to your house, to your doorstep,” he said in a Facebook video.
Howard, of Hopewell, Virginia, heads a group called Right to Bear Arms Virginia. In the video, he provided Levine’s home address in Old Town Alexandria and invited others to join him there.
“We are going to take our destiny into our own hands,” he said.
On Saturday afternoon, Levine looked out his kitchen window and saw a man with a long gun slung over his shoulder, a Virginia state flag and a sign reading “Withdraw HB 961.” Levine called police, who came and kept watch.
He was furious. On Monday, he vented to his House colleagues about what happened.
“What’s not appropriate is to come to my house with a loaded gun to coerce me to change my position on a bill,” he said. “That will not work. That will never work with me and I suggest it will never work with this body.”
I don’t know how effective Howard was at changing any hearts and minds in Old Town Alexandria with his protest, but I also don’t think he was intending to coerce or intimidate Levine. Howard has a long history of open carrying as part of his political activity, dating back to at least 2013, when he was detained by police in Hopewell, Virginia for carrying an AR-15 while protesting for the impeachment of Barack Obama on a highway overpass.
Howard sued the officer who detained him in that case, and ultimately settled with the city, but has continued both his Second Amendment and political activism in the years since. In fact, Howard is the head of the Hopewell Republican Committee, and is also running for a seat on the Hopewell City Council. The candidate made local headlines in the Richmond, Virginia area back in December for giving away guns on the campaign trail.
“Last Sunday, when I did my campaign kickoff, we gave away our first firearm which was a Diamondback AR-15.”
He’s partnered with local businesses to perform background checks on the spot to ensure the guns get in the hands of those who are eligible.
“I believe every citizen who wants a firearm, who is a law-abiding citizen, should have a firearm so I’m helping them do it,” Howard said.
If it sounds outrageous, Howard says the real rage should come from courts dropping gun charges for criminals for plea bargains.
“Prosecute the laws on the books. Put these people in a prison cell in the cage where they belong. They’re going to get out, they’re going to re-offend and have a gun. Our law enforcement officers are going to go back and have to re-capture this person. Now their lives are in danger,” Howard added.
In other words, Howard’s been pretty good at generating headlines over the years, but it doesn’t sound like he posed a threat to Del. Levine or anyone else with his one-man political protest last weekend. Again, we can argue how wise or effective it was, but I don’t think it was illegal and the fact that Levine wants to make it a crime shows he’s just as opposed to our right to free speech as he is to our right to keep and bear arms.
I’m not a fan of stunts that are ostensibly in support of the Second Amendment, in part because all too often it’s very hard to tell whether the advocate is really interested in advancing the cause or their own ambitions. That being said, there’s a big difference in doing something that’s not helpful and doing something that’s illegal. I don’t think Brandon Howard did much to move the needle of public opinion towards our side with his solitary show of political speech, but Del. Levine is way off base in calling for his arrest.