A tale of two rallies.

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    Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. day and the State Capitol in Virginia saw two rallies near the bell tower that could not have been more different.  In the morning, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) gathered around 150-200 supporters to pump themselves up in support of efforts to expand gun ownership rights, by weakening or eliminating the few remaining state laws that govern the issue.  They all wore orange stickers proclaiming the main tenet of their faith – GUNS SAVE LIVES, a  concept that they hold dear regardless of the mountains of evidence that show that guns END many more lives than they SAVE.

    In the afternoon, Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) groups flooded the same spot with between 350-400 supporters, in a crowd that several reporters curiously described as “greatly outnumbered” by the gun rights folks!  The afternoon event was the 21st annual vigil of the Virginia Center for Public Safety (VACPS), which brings people together to honor the many Virginians killed and injured in the last year.  The figures used at this year’s vigil came from 2012, when a total of 822 Virginians died from gunfire.  

    Apart from the polar opposite intentions of the two events, the other most obvious difference was in the response of the Capitol Police.  While the VCDL supporters were able to carry loaded firearms unchallenged, everything from handguns to “modern sporting rifles” like the AR15, the GVP supporters, armed simply with a few paper signs, did not fare so well.  You see, a handful of GVP supporters ignored organizers recommendations and brought with them a few small US flags, mounted on equally small wooden sticks.  Rather surprisingly, the presence of the small flag sticks raised the ire of the Capitol police as “dangerous” objects, an odd response when you consider that loaded rifles, in the possession of people who happily proclaim their right to overthrow the elected government by force of arms (should they decide that it is necessary), seemed to be accepted as benign.

    Not only were the sticks a point of contrast, so was the procedure for allowing these two disparate groups to enter the General Assembly building to talk to their elected legislators.  While the heavily armed VCDL supporters were allowed to enter the building expeditiously via a side door and bypass the metal detectors with their loaded weapons, the pacifist GVP supporters from the vigil were made to file slowly through the metal detectors, needless to say without those incredibly dangerous and thus prohibited flags on sticks.

    Looks to me like we need to rethink our definition of “assault weapons” to include this new category of hand held symbols of “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, namely small US flags on sticks!