While Virginia Democrats appear reluctant to push for new gun control laws in the state this year, given the fact that statewide elections will take place in November, gun control organizations Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady, Giffords, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence are urging lawmakers in the state to approve at least one new restriction on the right to keep and bear arms; a ban on open carrying of firearms across the state.
The anti-gun groups have penned a letter to every lawmaker in the state legislature, arguing that “the threat that armed intimidation poses to both public safety and our properly functioning government has never been clearer or greater.”
When extremists are armed, they jeopardize the safety of all residents trying to exercise their freedoms — and simply live their daily lives — in public. The sheer presence of firearms has the effect of chilling the exercise of Americans’ First Amendment right to assembly and freedom of speech. When firearms are brought to polling places, they are used as tools of voter suppression that have proliferated in recent years. …
This is why the undersigned organizations are calling for a complete ban on the open carry of firearms in Virginia. …
We must ensure that when making [the voices of Virginians] heard on an important issue, when voting, peacefully protesting, shopping at a farmer’s market, or going for a walk in their community, all Virginians are safe from the threat and intimidation of open carrying of firearms.
So far, anyway, the pleas by the anti-gun crowd have fallen on deaf ears. There’s been no legislation introduced in the state dealing with the open carrying of firearms, though Republican Del. Nick Freitas has introduced a bill that would allow for the permitless carrying of concealed firearms. That bill won’t go far in the Democrat-controlled House, but at the moment its the only bill filed that deals with the carrying of firearms in any capacity.
Don’t expect these gun control groups to just focus their efforts on Virginia, however. Everytown’s John Feinblatt is calling for open carry bans at all state capitols, and in a recent piece at USA Today he made it clear that the Michael Bloomberg-funded organization wants to see a blanket prohibition on the open carrying of firearms across the country, and not just at state capitols.
This is simply common sense. Because contrary to what you hear from the gun lobby, open carry of loaded weapons is not free speech — it is armed intimidation, and it has a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of other citizens. As Garrett Eps wrote in The Atlantic, “The right to bear arms in political debate is not the power to speak for oneself; it is, at least implicitly, the power to silence others.”
And it must not be forgotten that guns have the power to silence others for good — which should worry lawmakers in all states that allow open carry. The research shows that visible guns have been found to make people more aggressive; therefore open carry makes it more likely that disagreements will turn into violent conflicts.
That’s exactly what happened this summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, when a young man carrying a semi-automatic rifle shot three people — two of whom died — during a protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Is that “exactly what happened”? Not really. Even the evidence from prosecutors shows that Rittenhouse was being chased by a mob down a Kenosha street, at least one of whom had a gun of his own and fired it into the air as he was pursuing the teen. Rittenhouse only fired when he was cornered by Joseph Rosenbaum, who was shot while allegedly reaching for Rittenhouse’s rifle.
Kyle Rittenhouse has claimed self-defense, but Feinblatt has already convicted him of murder, at least in his own mind. Everytown and other gun control groups have no trouble twisting the facts to try to bolster their arguments against open carry, and they won’t stop there. The issue, as far as they’re concerned, is with the right to both keep and carry a gun in self-defense, not only with the ability to openly carry a firearm at a political protest.