This is an opinion piece.

A lot of eyes will be on the Virginia state capitol Monday, including the FBI’s, as thousands of protesters plan to gather for a pro-second amendment rally in opposition to new gun control laws proposed by the newly-elected, Democrat-controlled legislature.

In anticipation of the rally, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Wednesday banning all weapons from the capitol grounds. He claims he’s received “credible” threats from “out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt [the] democratic process with acts of violence.”

If he really has gotten these threats, then a certain level of security beyond the norm may be warranted. But, odds are, all he’ll have to deal with is a large crowd of citizens expressing and protecting their constitutional rights. 

And what of the threats he and the other Virginia Democrats have made to their constituents and, by extension, to Americans at large if this precedent were to be set? 

Too often the argument over gun control focuses on the instrument rather than the principle. This makes for specious, highly-emotional arguments that can appear legitimate at first blush. Some of the proposals Virginia Democrats have pushed include: limiting handgun purchases to one per month, expanding background checks on gun sales, allowing local municipalities to ban guns in some public areas and a “red flag” bill to temporarily take guns away from “dangerous” people.

Does anyone really need to buy a gun every month, let alone more than one? Buyers already must submit to a background check when purchasing from a federally licensed dealer; local governments, not to mention private businesses, already establish gun-free zones and “red flag” laws would make it easy to take guns away from people who “shouldn’t” have them in the first place. Right?

If the heart of the argument really was about guns, those proposals would be far less objectionable. I could go the rest of my life without wanting to purchase, shoot, touch or even look at another gun. But, the right to bear arms isn’t about one’s love for guns. It isn’t about a hobby or even hunting. It’s about the intrinsic value of human life reflected in each person’s freedom to protect themselves. 

At least 100 towns, cities and counties in Virginia have declared themselves to be “second-amendment sanctuaries,” saying they’ll refuse to enforce any unconstitutional gun control legislation, which if passed, could turn a large number of law-abiding citizens into criminals overnight. Northam has made a not-so-veiled threat to send in the National Guard should local law enforcement prove uncooperative. It’s hard to imagine that going any other way than south.

If the Virginia Dems really want to reduce gun violence and not just make a power grab, they’d be better served to address the root of the issue: why do people resort to violence in the first place?

Lawful citizens would bear the weight of these laws with little to show for it in added security. In David Foster Wallace’s essay, “Just Asking,” he posits a thought experiment asking if a certain amount of risk is inherent to having a certain level of freedom. Are all the controlling measures the government puts in place for our “safety” (e.g. the Patriot Act, warrantless surveillance, gun control, etc.) really worth it considering the trade-off between liberty and security which Ben Franklin spelled out more than 200 years ago? 

I’ll leave you with a thought from the essay: “Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?”

Daniel Tayloris a staff writer for The Reporter. His email is daniel.taylor@sandmountainreporter.com.

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