Those of us who value the United States Constitution and its Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, were profoundly depressed, earlier this year, to see the speed and efficiency with which left-wing and progressive forces in Virginia rammed through a swath of anti-gun legislation within weeks of taking office there. They ignored the wishes of almost half the electorate, dismissed out of hand protests, declarations of “Second Amendment sanctuaries” and other objections, and shoved through a series of laws that emasculated important parts of the right to keep and bear arms. They haven’t finished yet, either – expect more such laws to come down the pike within the next year or two.
I have friends who are in a position to follow developments there “behind the scenes”. They informed me this week that Michael Bloomberg (who bankrolled the Democrat electoral victory in Virginia) and his anti-gun organizations have taken their victory in that state to heart. They told me that, according to their sources, anti-gun lawyers are drafting national legislation that’s intended to be rushed through Congress and the Senate as soon as Democrats have (they hope) taken control of both houses early next year. Basically, they’ll reshape US federal law concerning firearms in the image and likeness of what’s already been done in Virginia – and just as quickly, if not faster.
You know, and I know, that this is unlikely to be constitutional, particularly in the light of the Heller, McDonald and Caetano decisions. Lawsuits against the new Virginia anti-gun laws have only just begun wending their way through the courts, and won’t be decided for years yet. Nevertheless, I’m informed that the anti-gun forces in this country have been greatly encouraged by their “success” in Virginia, and are determined to follow it up on a national scale by the same sort of swift legislative fiat that they accomplished there.
I’m informed that this will probably happen regardless of who wins the Presidential election in November. I understand the calculus is that, if a Democrat wins, the laws will be signed without difficulty (certainly, Joe Biden’s policy positions on guns are enough to gladden the heart of the anti-gun movement, and presumably any other Democratic presidential or vice-presidential candidate will adopt them or something similar). If President Trump wins re-election, but the Democrats win control of the House and Senate, he’ll be confronted with an ultimatum: sign the new anti-gun laws, or risk seeing every one of his policy priorities ignored or rejected by the legislature unless and until he does so. My correspondent pointed out that Mr. Trump is a New Yorker at heart, and has never felt as strongly about the Second Amendment as many other Republicans. Who knows if this sort of pressure might not lead to some sort of political accommodation, where at least some gun rights are sacrificed on the altar of other legislative priorities?
Such laws will, of course, criminalize a large swath of Americans. Similar anti-gun legislation has been largely ignored in states that tried to enforce it; in New York and Connecticut, to mention recent examples, owners of so-called “assault weapons” have very largely ignored the legal requirement to register their firearms. I’m sure civil disobedience like that will occur on a national scale if such legislation is passed; after all, the promise of such action is partly responsible for Virginia Democrats deferring (but not taking off the table altogether) their own proposed assault weapons ban. Nevertheless, those citizens who react by exercising civil disobedience will have made themselves felons according to the letter of the law, simply by standing up for their Second Amendment rights as they see them. If they get into trouble with the law for any other reason, that will almost certainly be used as a reason to prosecute them for firearms “offenses” as well. After all, won’t their “deliberate defiance of national laws” in one area be argued to be proof of their basically criminal nature in other areas?
I think this may be a make-or-break moment for gun rights in America. I have little doubt that many of our fellow citizens will talk a good fight, but relatively few will be willing to take action – just as the vast majority of the original colonists did not actively participate in the American Revolution, despite their passive support for it. Those who are prepared to actively resist such laws, no matter what the cost, will be relatively few. Will they be enough to make a difference? I don’t know.
What I do know is that talk is cheap. “Actions speak louder than words”, to quote the old idiom. If you value your Second Amendment rights, you’ve got the rest of this year to do something to express and protect them before the crunch comes. Express them by buying what firearms you need, plus enough ammunition to keep them fed and yourself in practice. (In particular, I’d encourage you to buy one or more of the sort of firearm likely to be proscribed by such laws, plus enough ammunition and accessories to make them useful. Vote with your wallet! Also, I’d take steps to dispose of at least some of the guns you own that are recorded in your name, in favor of guns that are “off-paper”. Private sales or swaps are still entirely legal in most of the country. If anti-gun authorities don’t know you’ve got it, it’s a lot trickier to trace it or demand that you surrender it.) Protect your rights by allying with other gun owners to put pressure on our politicians to defend the Second Amendment against such attacks, and to elect those who will uphold it.
One important point: in allying with others, choose your friends wisely. I no longer regard the National Rifle Association as worthy of support. Wayne LaPierre and his cohorts at the head of the NRA appear to have converted it into a benefit society for themselves, at the expense of its mission and its members. They are utterly discredited. Unless and until they have departed, and the NRA has been entirely cleansed of their odious influence, I shall no longer support it in any way. I’d rather work with more honest organizations such as (on a national level) Gun Owners of America or the Second Amendment Foundation. I recommend both to your attention.
Finally, look to your local politicians, law enforcement agencies and officers, and local regulations. Most of the counties in Virginia have declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries. I’d like to see a lot more of that. Without local cooperation, regional and national gun regulation and confiscation will be a lot more difficult.