My Message to Republicans Following the Shooting in Virginia

Whenever some sort of tragedy occurs, I do my best to not overly-politicize it because I feel that does a disservice to the victims. Thankfully no victims died from Wednesday’s shooting at a baseball field in Virginia where several GOP lawmakers were practicing for an annual charity baseball game, after the quick thinking and heroic efforts of Capitol Police took out the shooter. This could have turned out much worse for the families affected and the country as a whole.

That being said, there are a few points I want to bring up about this, because they directly contradict rhetoric and propaganda that the NRA and Republican party frequently uses when speaking about guns, gun rights and opposition to sensible gun regulations.

First, Virginia is an extremely pro-gun state that:

  • Has no magazine limit restrictions.
  • Requires no permit for people over 18 to openly carry firearms in public — either handgun or long gun.
  • Has no waiting period to buy a firearm.

In other words, Virginia is just about as “pro-gun” as you can get. So I don’t want to hear about how the state’s gun laws prevented people from being able to “defend themselves.”

Then there’s always their talk that guns deter unhinged would-be mass shooters from carrying out their intended act of violence.

This shooter specifically targeted a gathering where armed Capitol Police security were on scene. Much like the Dallas police shooting from last year, the presence of highly-trained and armed law enforcement officials didn’t deter a mentally deranged person with a gun from carrying out a horrific act of violence. Granted, as I said, their heroic efforts prevented what could have been a mass murder, but their presence didn’t deter the shooter from opening fire.

And what about open carry not being any sort of an issue? Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t this shooter simply a “good guy with a gun,” you know — before he opened fire on several members of the United States Congress?

The open carry of both handguns and long guns is perfectly legal in Virginia. Which means, up until the point when this man began shooting, he wasn’t doing much of anything wrong. It reminds me of a tragic shooting in Colorado a couple of years back. Residents had called 911 on a man marching up and down their street with a gun, only to be told that there was nothing they could do about it, because it was legal to openly carry that weapon in the city of Colorado Springs.

Shortly later, that man killed three people.

I’ve written about several instances where people, frightened by someone marching around, openly carrying weapons (even near schools), were told by local law enforcement that there was nothing they could do about it because such behavior was perfectly legal. One man who even taunted police after terrified witnesses saw him openly carrying a handgun holstered to his hip and a rifle strapped on his back near a Michigan school while another man in Tennessee wore a bulletproof vest with a rifle strapped across his back as he paced near a school there.

Or speaking of public parks where sporting events take place, such as a practice for a charity baseball game attended by several members of Congress, there was the guy in Georgia who flaunted a gun in a park where little league games were taken place, telling petrified parents and children,”There’s nothing you can do about it!”

The entire premise behind open carry is idiotic because, in a society where everyone can openly carry a weapon, there’s absolutely no way to tell the difference between a “bad guy with a gun” and a “good guy with a gun” until the “bad guy” opens fire.

So, today’s shooting took place:

  • In the very pro-gun state of Virginia.
  • At a location where highly trained and armed law enforcement officers were present.
  • In a state where open carry is perfectly legal — without a permit.
  • The “good guys” who took down this shooter weren’t armed civilians, but rather trained law enforcement officers, two of whom were actually wounded in the attack.

But I was always led to believe that the best way to “stop bad guys” was fewer gun regulations, getting rid of gun-free zones, allowing open carry to deter “bad guys” from doing anything, and that the only way to stop them are “good guys with guns.”

Law enforcement officers are usually “good guys,” but that’s not what gun fanatics mean when they use that phrase. They’re clearly referring to the so-called “well-regulated militia” and ordinary citizens — not police and other law enforcement officers.

If anything, many of these open carry nuts, such as Kory Watkins and his band of pro-gun clowns, are anti-police radicals who routinely harass, taunt, and mock law enforcement officials. Plus many of the most ardent pro-gun people are staunch anti-government conspiracy theorists. So I definitely know when they speak of “good guys with guns,” they’re most certainly not referring to police officers.

This shooting proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that if someone with a gun wants to carry out an act of violence, no matter the circumstances, they’re going to find a way. It doesn’t matter how lax the gun laws are, how many citizens own them, or how legal it is to openly carry those weapons — these people will not be deterred.

Which is why the only common sense approach to any of this is to do everything we can to make guns harder to obtain. That way they don’t fall into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. And we damn sure shouldn’t have open carry laws where “bad guys” and “good guys” look exactly the same until the “bad guy” starts shooting people.

What I can’t wait to hear now are these Republicans, especially the ones who were there when this all happened, stand there and tell the world that guns have nothing to do with gun violence. That we don’t need stricter laws on guns so that people who shouldn’t have them can’t get them, let alone walk around openly with them where nobody can do anything about it until they open fire.

This shooting debunked nearly every talking point the GOP and NRA have used in their pro-gun propaganda, and I cannot wait to see how they try to spin what happened in Virginia on Wednesday.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook and share your thoughts.


The original version of this article included a note that Virginia “has no permit requirement to conceal carry weapons, either.” This is not the case, as Virginia does require a CHP to carry a concealed weapon. Our apologies on this mistake in fact-checking, and a big thank you to our readers for pointing it out!

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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