Just before the white supremacist rally at Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park turned brutally nasty last Saturday, several dozen scowling men in camouflage uniforms holding ugly, black assault rifles positioned themselves between opposing protestors.

They looked like something out of the movie “American Sniper.” Many had beards just like Navy Seal Chris Kyle did in the movie. They were fully tricked out with body armor with small, Velcro Confederate flags, big pockets for bullet magazines and combat boots. They even had the same, curved amber sunglasses as shown in the action movie.

The men were a self-appointed militia with links to the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other racists whose ugly event resulted in three deaths. One wondered why they were allowed there. Why didn’t the police shut them down? Do the police even have the authority to send them away?

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The answer: It depends on where you are. It shows just how daffy the United States’ and Virginia’s gun control laws are.

Virginia is one of about a two dozen states that have open carry laws, meaning that the guys playing soldier did have a right to carry their assault rifles in public. In Maryland, they would be facing a year in prison. Although mostly an open-carry state, Maryland prohibits ordinary citizens from bringing firearms to any public demonstration. In the District, forget it. Bringing weapons to a public rally, or anywhere else, is not allowed.

Virginia localities have some restrictions on the size of the magazines as well. In Alexandria, Chesapeake, Fairfax, Falls Church, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond and Virginia Beach, the militia guys couldn’t bring in standard-sized magazines of more than 20 rounds with their rifles. Nor could they in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun or Prince William.

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Why can’t Virginia get its act together on firearms? The gun lobby has been so effective in placing so-called “gun rights” into the mentality of state politics that the issue is a non-starter. The NRA is headquartered in Fairfax County.

We’re supposed to get all upset if someone orders one of these militia clowns to get rid of his assault rifle. We’d be violating his rights. Yet these guys are given every right to terrorize people attending a public rally, as they did last weekend.

It was just one of many tragedies that day in Charlottesville.

Peter Galuszka is a regular contributor to All Opinions Are Local.

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