Alan Zendell, February 3, 2020
Many Americans who saw these photographs shook their heads decrying the way third world countries operate, relieved that scenes like this never happen here. The pictures must have been taken in one of those shithole countries Donald Trump referred to, places like Paraguay or Somalia, where armed rebels storm the capital and occupy government offices, where military coups d’etat usurp elected authority and suspend normal rules of order.
That’s pretty frightening stuff, even more so because those scenes weren’t from Paraguay or Somalia, or Botswana or Venezuela either. They were recorded by Getty Images three days ago at the State Capital building in Frankfort, Kentucky. The men in the pictures weren’t guerrilla fighters staging a revolution. They were red-blooded Americans, right-wing extremists all, puffing out their chests and showing everyone how tough they were with their fully loaded, military grade weapons.
Apparently, the scene in Kentucky was deemed perfectly legal and appropriate, at least for that one day on January 31st. On every other day, visitors to the capital building are carefully screened, forced to walk through metal detectors and show IDs before they’re permitted to enter. But when the group We Are KY Gun Owners staged a rally to protest proposed new gun control laws being considered by the legislature, they were welcomed with open arms.
Normally, law enforcement takes security very seriously at the Kentucky capital. Civilians carrying guns, either loaded or unloaded aren’t permitted in the building. And it’s not only guns. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that all manner of dangerous weapons, including “umbrellas and sticks holding protest signs” are routinely confiscated from perpetrators before they’re allowed to enter.
When thousands of teachers rallied at the same location a year ago to peacefully protest a bill that would have trashed their state pension system, they were treated like suspected terrorists. But when 200 Second Amendment activists showed up in full military regalia toting loaded semi-automatic weapons and wearing camo body armor, causing terrified tourists and other visitors to flee the building, security guards simply directed them around the metal detectors and invited them in.
The gun activists were protesting against Kentucky’s proposed Red Flag law that would permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who might present a danger to others or themselves. Red Flag laws already exist in fourteen states, including Florida, which passed one in September, 2019 in response to the Marjorie Stoneman Douglass school shooting massacre.
In part, the Kentucky protest grew out of similar (but unarmed) protests in Virginia, which until now has had no gun control laws at all. Virginia is home to the National Rifle Association, which was supporting attempts to have some counties in the state declared Second Amendment sanctuary areas, which means they would be exempt from any gun control laws passed by the state. But on January 30th, reacting to the May 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach, the state’s House of Delegates passed seven bills that would overhaul gun policy in the Old Dominion, [and] the state Senate approved analogues to five of the measures.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has indicated that he will sign the new law as soon as the legislature sends it to him. In addition to universal background checks and a Red Flag law, the legislation set a one-per-month limit on handgun purchases, restoring a restriction that had been repealed by a Republican controlled legislature in 2012. It also allows courts to issue protective orders that would prohibit abusive domestic partners and other family members from owning guns.
The Virginia law seems to have been the catalyst for the gun rally in the Kentucky capital. Those heavily armed Kentucky protesters considered the actions taken in Virginia to be a threat to their own Second Amendment rights. But are they? The Second Amendment to the Constitution is a simple statement written in straightforward terms: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That’s it in its entirety. To most people the intent of those words is clear.
Does any serious person believe that Virginia’s new gun laws are intended to abrogate that right? Do you suppose the founders foresaw a Banana Republic scene like the one pictured above in Frankfort, Kentucky? I think not.