OPINION: Writer Reacts to Virginia Gun Rights Protest

A number of gun control measures have been proposed in the Virginia legislature, which is newly under the control of Democrats for the first time in decades. Gun rights protestors gathered at the Virginia statehouse (above) two weeks ago in protest, which caused the governor to issue a state of emergency. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Zoe Hill
Opinions Staff Writer

Almost six months ago, Dayton was rocked by a mass shooting in the Oregon District that left nine people dead and 24 injured. The shockwaves can still be felt resonating from the Dayton community. The weight of nearly three dozen casualties in the heart of Gem City devastatingly, but not shockingly, surmounted the thoughts and prayers of the nation and radio silence from serious legislative action.

The national consolation of such a horrific event is never enough to prevent someone’s mother, brother, wife, or child from being gunned down. Thoughts and prayers seemingly run dry when the country is also mourning the 22 victims of the El Paso, Texas shooting, some thirteen hours before. But mass shootings did not start last August. Heartbreakingly, these calamities seem to arise almost everyday in the United States. Two months prior to the day that rocked Dayton, our thoughts and prayers went out to Virginia Beach. Now, Virginia lawmakers are making noise. 

In a so-called “second amendment sanctuary” state, it was particularly noticeable when Virginian legislators began proposing common sense gun laws that were not immediately squashed. The 2019 election flipped the state blue after being Republican-dominated for nearly half a century. This drastic change in power stacked both legislative houses with Democrats, allowing for lawmakers to propose several gun control bills. 

A few of the potential changes to the current gun laws in Virginia include “universal background checks, a purchase limit for one handgun a month, a ‘red flag’ law letting authorities temporarily seize a person’s guns if he’s deemed a threat, and a law giving local governments the ability to ban guns in public spaces during permitted events” as reported by Vox. As of now, the “red flag” law is the only bill to have passed in the lower house. 

The situation in Virginia made national headlines when an estimated 22,000 supporters of the Second Amendment peacefully rallied at the state Capitol. The information outlined in the bills proposed by Virginia lawmakers makes it clear that these laws have no intention to take away the guns of law-abiding citizens. The changes would require more steps to obtain a firearm in a virtually unregulated state and mandate that current and future gun owners register their weapons, a minor paperwork inconvenience that is worth the life of someone’s child who will die at the hand of a gun. 

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In a state like Ohio, the argument for common sense gun control seems futile, but Virginians likely uttered the same words just months ago. In a political atmosphere such as ours, change seems impossible. I amlike undoubtedly many others of my generation aretired of being afraid to go to the movies because we may get gunned down. We cannot go a month without an active shooter drill in our schools. We keep one eye open when we pray at church so that we can watch the door for a gunman. We have to decipher rhythmic beats from gunshots when dancing at a club or concert. We are scared to go to the gym and the grocery store. We are scared to go outside. We are scared to live because we fear that if we do, we won’t be alive tomorrow. 

Often I hear people say “if you value your freedoms, you will protect your Second Amendment right,” and up until last year, I did not have the right to purchase a gun, yet I am expected to cherish it more than my safety and sanity. It seems to me that the ones who are making the decisions that result in thousands of kids becoming collateral are generationally disconnected from the damage. 

When I turned eighteen several months ago, not even a part of me wanted to go out and purchase a gun. I was excited to become a registered voter. I did not desire to arm myself with an artillery. I would trade my Second Amendment right to bring back the 22 children and teachers who were gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut or the 49 party-goers at Pulse in Orlando, Florida.

As a journalist, my freedoms mean everything to me, including my freedom of expression. I use this right to express how incredibly important it is to go out and vote in each election to ensure that common sense gun laws protect us from becoming a statistic. It is possible to halt this heinous violence no matter what color your state is. 

It is unacceptable that mass shootings are commonplace now. This country’s attachment to the Second Amendment has forced us to put our rights to use in the way of protest and demonstration. But, the truth is that every single right guaranteed by the United States Constitution means absolutely nothing to the nine people who never walked out of Ned Pepper’s Bar in Dayton last August.

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