VIGILANTISM, WITH its alluring tingle of defiance and frontier justice, conjures a cinematic idea of American individualism. A similar impulse is at work among advocates of the so-called Second Amendment sanctuary movement, a trend in mainly rural counties declaring they will refuse to enforce restrictive state gun laws. Both are examples of individuals who, lacking legal authority, put themselves above the law, thereby promoting chaos.
In Virginia, the movement has lately become a fad, spurred by legislative election results that will, starting in January, hand pro-gun control Democrats control of both houses of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation. With a Democrat also in the governor’s mansion, some rural Republicans are raising the specter of mass gun confiscations — and pronouncing themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries.
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In Virginia, local governing bodies in a few dozen Appalachian southwest and central Piedmont counties have passed or are considering resolutions declaring themselves gun sanctuaries. In many, longtime gun owners are hunters who say their way of life is threatened by liberal lawmakers in Richmond.
This is nonsense fanned by mischief-makers with an agenda. In fact, the gun legislation with the best chance of passage would promote public safety by requiring universal background checks — a measure with overwhelming bipartisan support among Virginians in public opinion surveys. Other bills with broad support would limit the number and types of weapons that can be sold. For instance, by restricting handgun purchases by individuals to one per month — an anti-trafficker measure that was the law in Virginia for 20 years before it was repealed in 2012.
The only cases in which gun confiscation could take place would be if the legislature enacts a “red flag” bill, which would allow law enforcement authorities to take away firearms from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others. Such laws, which have received bipartisan support in many states, generally depend on an order from a judge who would consider evidence presented in court.
Local authorities who refuse such orders would be thumbing their noses not just at state law but also at judicial orders — and they should be removed from office and prosecuted. Short of that, however, the gun sanctuary movement seems mainly symbolic, another manifestation of growing division in an increasingly tribal nation.
It would be too laborious to fisk this completely, but let’s make a few important points.
First, notice the literary device right out of the gate. Vigilantism = Rugged American Individualism, or at least it conjures that image. They could have said that hard work and self reliance = rugged American individualism, or that a free market economy conjures images of rugged American individualism.
But they didn’t. They equated rugged American individualism with vigilantism. This is no mistake, for they like neither one. The inside-the-beltway culture holds the collectivist value system in high regard. It takes a village, you know.