First and foremost, I would like to offer a heart-felt salute to each of the 80,000 to 120,000 individuals for attending the Virginia Rally of Protest (01.20.20). I say Rally of Protest because this event was a rallying point for gun owners of Virginia to amass in protest against a bold and, as of yet, unchallenged state government. While this was a phenomenal turnout with an abundance of arms to bear, I am forced to temper this seeming victory with some perspective. I respect the Virginians, their cause, and the Constitutionally protected right they appealed for — our Second Amendment.
Virginia, you are not out of the woods.
Let us take a step back and assess what just happened from a tactical standpoint. Numerous gun control measures were being considered by the newly seated Virginia State Senate which saw the Democrats take control in the most recent election. The response of a broad spectrum of gun owners in the Old Dominion was outraged. That the legislators of a state with the motto “Sic Semper Tyrannus” (Death to Tyrants) would take measures to criminalize their own citizenry by the power of the pen, shows they wish to put those words to the test.
While the protest was peaceful, laws have been passed and more will likely follow. There were no state senators there to hear the people’s grievances. They were not swayed by the gathering, having the utmost confidence in law enforcement to handle any instigation that may have arisen. They were secure, well prepared, and resolved to make good on their threats to depose any level of insurrection.
The attendees showed up in numbers. The demonstration was essentially an appeal, a plea, to leave their Second Amendment rights alone and take up no additional gun control bills in the state legislature. I hesitate to use the word “Beg” as it would discourage those who, in good faith, sought to change their Representatives’ minds. This approach was the proper response of an enraged citizenry. However, the same approach was taken when the Tea Party filled DC. Where is it today? How much debt has been accrued since?
There must come a point when the people realize the civil road is leading to greater bondage. While the people were rallying to protest against unlawful legislation, the alphabet agencies were gathering intelligence on those who attended. They were taking names, faces and profiles through an abundance of social media traffic the event generated. They know who the movers and shakers are. They read the rhetoric on Facebook and Twitter. They can use FISA and other Surveillance techniques authorized by the PATRIOT Act’s many expansions through multiple administrations (including the current one). There are several accounts of citizens being visited in advance due to “suspicious activity.”
You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
The State has demonstrated its willingness to use threats of force, intimidation, and further regulation to coerce compliance from its subjects. Those who protested demonstrated a willingness to act within the strict limitations of the State’s direction. While state militias, Threepers, Oathkeepers, and the average unaffiliated citizen quoted: “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ,” “Don’t Tread On Me,” and “I Will Not Comply,” they were behaving in a rather compliant manner. This was not out of respect for the State so much as it was a respect for the rule of law. I get it. Proving the mainstream media wrong is important. Proving that we can protest with civility is key to winning hearts and minds. However, our minds are made up. We know where we stand and why. Those who are against us have made up their minds just like we have.
For many in attendance and many more watching from around the country, the rally resulted in the best possible outcome. Not a shot was fired. Everyone was respectful. The crowd even cleaned up the grounds before leaving. They failed only in one respect. They left the real trash with the impression that they could still govern as they have.
American history has given us several effective examples of how to conduct ourselves when governing bodies run afoul of the people’s will.
“Do not fire unless fired upon…” Lexington/Concord, Massachusetts (April 1775) – Militia gathered at Lexington Green as word spread that the British were coming to discover and confiscate a colonial weapons cache in the area. Cpt. John Parker and his militia cut loose on the British with a volley of black powder at Lexington Green, Massachusetts, sparking the Revolutionary War. Though the militia were initially defeated in the exchange, they fell back to a more defensible position and the Siege of Boston began.
Shays Rebellion (January 1787) – Daniel Shays, a Revolutionary War veteran who saw action at the battle of Lexington and Concord (mentioned above) as well as Bunker Hill and Saratoga, led 4,000 strong against the Springfield Armory to acquire armaments in an effort to overthrow the new Federal Government. Though the rebellion was deposed by the state militia, it was a primary catalyst in the ratification of the Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation. Some may argue that the Constitution was the wrong course, the fact that 4,000 determined individuals were able to initiate foundational changes in the governance of our country in spite of their defeat, should serve as an example of the will we should be cultivating.
Battle of Athens Tennessee (August 1946) – WWII veterans, led by Bill White, conducted a coup against the corrupt local government of Athens, Tennessee. A good ol’ boy network of politicians and police blocked any effort to oppose their iron grip on local politics. They controlled elections. When a viable challenger presented himself, they set about applying strong-arm tactics and tight control over the ballots. Those appointed to oversee the ballot counts were beaten, and the ballot box was stolen. 60 armed men surrounded the local jail where the corrupt took refuge. Shots were fired, dynamite was thrown, and the situation was resolved when the network was run out of town. The actual winner was declared, and he set about establishing a new local government.
Selma, Alabama (March 1965) – Martin Luther King Jr. led thousands on a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to protest Gov. George Wallace, local and state police, and private citizens who systemically prevented blacks from registering to vote. They were met by the above mentioned with whips, night sticks, and tear gas. After three attempts (and with an escort of National Guard) they succeeded in crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in spite of the State’s efforts to prevent them. This event, being broadcast nationwide, shifted public sentiment sharply in favor of the marchers and raised awareness of the violence endured by blacks in the south. This nonviolent march and numerous acts of civil disobedience resulted in sweeping changes on behalf of minority struggles for equality.
Wounded Knee Occupation (February 1973) – Almost a hundred years after the massacre at Wounded Knee, 200 Ogala Lakota Indians under the banner of AIM (American Indian Movement) took control of the office of their tribal agent. With evidence that their leader was operating from a position of personal enrichment and thoroughly entrenched corruption, the group of AIM members usurped their representative’s office to address the miserable conditions of reservation life. While not exactly a war, some tribal members and FBI agents were killed in the standoff. When a handful of rebels determined to make a public stand against federal betrayal, treaty violations, coercion and reservation conditions, they took up guns and held federal agents at bay for 71 days.
Bundy Ranch (April-May 2014) – Cliven Bundy had been fighting a legal battle against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for 21 years over grazing rights and fees. BLM took Cliven Bundy to court, claiming he owed $1,000,000 worth of grazing fees for allowing his cattle to use adjacent federal land to feed. In lieu of non-payment, BLM and members of the ATF attempted to confiscate his cattle. The ensuing standoff saw armed federal authorities facing armed citizens. The new director of BLM decided to relent and ceased the cattle gathering operation. The standoff was seen as a victory for the citizens and, though Cliven as well as several members of his family and those who came to his aid were brought up on charges, Cliven was cleared as the charges were dismissed in court.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (January 2016) – Dwight Jr. and his son Steven Hammond were targeted with charges of Arson by the BLM for setting a controlled burn on federal land. The explanation for the intentionally set fire was to create a barrier against wildfires. As the BLM does not “manage” the land, the ranchers took it upon themselves to preempt the potential for wildfires to spread from federal land to their private land. The judge trying the case understood what the men were doing and sentenced them to 6 mo. and 1 yr. respectively.
Having completed the sentences, federal authorities overturned the judge’s original sentence and demanded federal minimum sentences be served. For this injustice, a march of protest was held by supporters of the Hammonds. Of those marching, a contingent led by Ammon Bundy (son of Cliven from the story above) broke away, and with weapons for their own defense traveled 30 miles to a vacant building on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and occupied it. The act, though symbolic, did garner support throughout the country and provoked the feds. The defiant standoff lasted 41 days and resulted in the ambush and murder of Lavoy Finnicum on an isolated stretch of Oregon highway by federal agents, as well as the arrest of several occupiers. The majority of them were acquitted of the charges and of the convictions; most were for minor crimes.
From occupations to defiant marches; from armed conflict to blocking injustice; from open rebellion to actions of self-preservation, our history has many moments when the proper avenues have been exhausted. When in that situation, they fell back on their natural rights. There are moments when the Gadsden Flag’s creed “Don’t Tread On Me,” “I Will Not Comply,” “Sic Semper Tyrannus,” and “Come and Take Them” are not mere words spoken by great men of the past but are a rallying cry to an underlying context in the age-old battle for liberty and self-determination.
We have been tread upon. They have repeatedly demanded we comply. Tyranny is proliferating at every level of government. Across this country there are murmurings, threats, and promises to come and take what we have, to render us criminals for defending a right our public servants swore to uphold.
In response to the anti-gun control protest in Virginia, the following day they advanced a red flag law. How much do they expect us to tolerate? How much will we tolerate? At the very least, this will require civil disobedience. It will take people refusing to comply to shift government’s indifference. When the proper, legal, and civil channels have been exhausted, when the avenue of peaceful assembly for the redress of grievances has no impact and legal avenues favor the oppressor over the oppressed, desperation will force the people to pursue alternatives to check a rebellious government’s entitlement to our sovereignty. History and natural law bear witness to this inevitable outcome.
I hope that not one drop of American blood is spilled in this cause. Should it come to pass, the guilt will lie at the feet of the State.
Eric Buss is an avid reader and studies history, military, philosophy and politics.
Eric considers himself a Christian Conservatarian.