Safety Precautions at Gun Rallies Must Continue

In+the+wake+of+Charlottesville%2C+officials+must+be+cautious+with+gun+rallies.+%28Courtesy+of+Twitter%29

In the wake of Charlottesville, officials must be cautious with gun rallies. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Taylor Herzlich, Contributing Writer

The Virginia gun rally has been an extremely controversial topic, dominating the news for days leading up to the event. The gun rally was held on Monday, Jan. 20 in Richmond, Virginia, in a response to new gun control bills that were proposed by the Virginia State Senate. These new attempts to increase gun control regulations are especially threatening to current American gun owners because of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi, current speaker of the house. Although there are exceptions to the rule, gun control tends to be a partisan issue, with conservatives defending the right to own guns under the Second Amendment and liberals pushing for stricter gun regulations. 

However, the real reason the Virginia gun rally remains such a provocative issue was because of the panic leading up to the event. In fact, days before the event, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency. In attempt to increase safety, Northam temporarily banned the possession of weapons on State Capitol property after receiving numerous threats of violence from extremist groups. This is a shockingly strong response from the government, yet it may be reasonable under the context of the violence that ensued at a similar event held in Charlottesville, Virginia in Aug. 2017, which had one fatality. Thankfully, the Virginia gun rally ended peacefully, with no severe signs of violence. Many who attended the event vouched for its safety. Therefore, the question remains: Was the state of emergency declared really necessary?

Most proponents of gun rights will say no. Overall, the rally went smoothly. There were no signs of violence on the day of the event, and no one was hurt, so it makes sense to take this as a sign that the governor’s reaction was over-the-top. However, this is not the true issue. The lack of violence at the gun rally does not make the declaration of a state of emergency invalid or overdramatic. These preventive measures were put into place out of fear, and the fear that is associated with guns is completely valid.

It makes sense that people were scared of the violence that could ensue at the gun rally because at the end of the day, guns are weapons. They can be used for good or bad, for self-defense or for cruelty, but nonetheless, guns remain weapons. The natural instinct of feeling fear at the sight of a gun is common for many, regardless of the individual purpose of the firearm. For example, if I find myself walking around an airport and see law enforcement carrying a gun, I feel fear. It is instinctual. It does not matter if the guns are there for my own protection; I feel fear either way. 

That is the true controversy of the Virginia gun rally. Though the real issue may be disguising itself as a question of whether preventative measures were truly necessary, the question is as simple as it ever was. Should gun control laws be stricter? Are guns really necessary for personal safety? 

To delve into the purpose behind the Virginia gun rally, it is necessary to take a deeper look at the specifics of the gun laws being proposed. The bills proposed suggest that gun owners should be limited to purchasing one handgun per month, that those purchasing guns should be required to pass a background check and that local governments should have the ability to ban guns in public parks and property. 

It seems shocking that these restrictions were not already in place. They seem extremely reasonable, and not at all restrictive enough to provoke a massive rally. I assume the rally was more of a figurative approach attempting to display the frustration of gun owners at having any portion of their Second Amendment rights stripped away. 

Nevertheless, what is so wrong about these laws? If the defense remains that Americans need to be able to own guns to protect themselves, what about these new laws prevent citizens from protecting themselves? Is it necessary to purchase more than one gun per month? Last time I checked, handguns don’t have a 30-day expiration date. Are gun owners really that worried about failing a background check? If so, that argument does not do much to support their case. Lastly, is the thought of having to avoid public parks while carrying a firearm that much to ask? Public smoking is already banned in plenty of parks to prevent children from inhaling secondhand smoke, and this issue seems to receive little argument. Yet the thought of banning dangerous firearms from parks –– that is a debate.  

Whether or not the declaration of a state of emergency was necessary is not the argument at hand. It was not necessary. It is obvious that it was not necessary now, after the fact, because the Virginia gun rally was a fairly peaceful and wholly safe event. However, the state of emergency still remains relevant because it displays the valid fear that comes with the congregation of numerous firearms. Although this specific event went smoothly, it very easily could have been a different story, just as Charlottesville was. 

The uneasiness that comes with gun rallies will never cease to exist because of the natural anxiety that comes with virtually any kind of weapon. If there was a huge rally held where tons of people showed up with knives, or cannons, or battle axes for that matter, to defend their right to self-defense, there would be fear. Weapons naturally instill fear. It is what they are meant to do.

 

Taylor Herzlich, GSB ’23, is a Business Administration major from Mount Sinai, N.Y.