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Gun reality vs. gun fantasy in Virginia

Gun rights supporters hold weapons outside the Capitol office building in Richmond in July.
Gun rights supporters hold weapons outside the Capitol office building in Richmond in July. (Steve Helber/AP)

Let’s talk reality and fantasy in Virginia.

Just minutes into New Year’s Day, it rained glass inside Justin Tate’s car, as a celebratory bullet shot into the sky at midnight fell back to the earth through his sunroof as he drove down Interstate 64, not far from the Richmond airport, according to CBS 6 News.

Less than half an hour later in the western part of the state, in the parking lot of Kickback Jack’s sports bar in Danville, a 25-year-old woman was shot in the leg by a 24-year-old man during a domestic dispute. The shooter took off and hasn’t been arrested, according to the Danville police.

Later that day, in a small town not far from the parking-lot shooting, an earnest, new Martinsville police officer named Michael Panos was airlifted to a hospital after a man who fled a traffic stop turned his gun on officers once they chased him down, hitting Panos. The officer, about to celebrate two years with the department, survived, according to ABC News 13.

And on the third day of 2020, a man upset with his order at a McDonald’s drive-through in Lynchburg parked his car, walked up to the counter and began firing his gun at employees, hitting two high school-age girls who worked there. The shooter fled and hasn’t been caught, and the girls survived, according to the Lynchburg police.

Shattered glass, shattered bones, shattered lives. This the reality of gunfire in Virginia.

Yes, Virginia, you have a gun problem

Most sensible people (like most of the developed world, for example) would look at innocent people being shot and see a problem.

After the springtime massacre of 12 people by a worker-turned-mass-shooter at the Virginia Beach municipal complex, and after the state legislature did absolutely nothing about it, the moms took revenge.

Moms Demand Action, a branch of Everytown for Gun Safety, worked their tails off campaigning for people who would work to change Virginia’s lax gun laws.

They gathered in Washington to plan grass-roots strategies, advocacy and lobbying efforts.

They wore sensible shoes and brought snacks in canvas bags. They even got tattoos.

What happened was a monumental, game-changing victory that flipped the state legislature as well as the U.S. House of Representatives.

Voters in Virginia who are tired of the relentless gun violence — 65 percent of which is suicide — elected a fleet of new legislators who campaigned on long overdue changes to Virginia’s gun laws.

There are measures to ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers. There are proposals to require background checks on all firearms sales and transfers, as well as limit handgun purchases to one a month.

And there is a move to adopt the same kind of “red flag law” in at least a dozen other states that allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others, thwarting domestic violence shootings and suicides.

How red flag laws can stop mass shootings and suicides

That’s it. It’s pretty common sense and allows the hunters, the farmers, the law-abiding homeowners who want protection to keep guns and buy more guns.

But this is where the gun enthusiasts’ fantasies begin, as detailed by my colleagues Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella.

The gun guys are scared out of their minds that someone’s going to come and take their guns. (Again, fantasy.)

They live in a make-believe world where they are the heroes and the patriots under attack.

They are retweeting old photos of white U.N. trucks saying they are “gun control shock troops” coming in to disarm Virginians. (Debunked by in 2016.)

They’ve issued threats against Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

They are recruiting military and law enforcement members to come in and train posses and militias across the state.

They believe the fantasy that they are good guys with guns who will stop bad guys with guns, despite a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that shows places that allow concealed carry weapons see eventual increases in gun violence.

So amid the dawn of a bloodstained decade in Virginia, a website called AmmoLand issued a call:

“Our patriot brothers and sisters in Virginia need our boots on the ground, and they need us to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, as they stand against unconstitutional violations of multiple provisions of the Bill of Rights. We need you to help!” read the call to arms from the gun rights group on Jan. 2.

Counties across Virginia, egged on by extremists, began declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.”

Um, like safe spaces for imaginary cowboys, I guess.

In their imaginary war, they dress up in tactical gear and open carry whenever they can.

But this time, they’re going to try a new fantasy, as they plan to gather in Richmond in January for a rally to rival the fatal disaster in Charlottesville.

The moms aren’t having it, though.

“We will be there every single day to make sure these life-saving laws are passed,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action.

This push to focus on Virginia, to arm more citizens and form menacing posses, is an armed “temper tantrum” to try to subvert democracy, Watts said, remembering this past summer when the pro-gun crowd armed to the teeth and dressed for combat stared down scores of moms who came on buses.

They knew it was menacing. And they want to tone it down, just for one day, on Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“We urge you to dress like average Americans, not in camo or full battle rattle,” the AmmoLand guys said.

“Our purpose is to be force multipliers for the people of Virginia. . . . please no camouflage or military gear. We want to present as quiet professionals. That is according to the wishes of the event organizers and of the Virginia patriot groups we are already working with, who have the most skin in the game in their home state. Please respect their wishes and help them in their chosen strategy. They also prefer that we go concealed carry for those who will be carrying. And they prefer that there be no long guns at the rally.”

The folks coming in from all over trying to make a stand on their hobby are not “average Americans.”

They are people who want a culture war, a fight, a reason to feel powerful and superior to the people who are in hospitals, doctor’s offices and funeral homes living with the reality of an unhealthy and irrational obsession with guns.

Twitter: @petulad

Read more Petula Dvorak:

O’Malley Vs. Cuccinelli. Who is right about what the Jesuits wanted?

I met the real Santa and he has a screenplay

Tattoos and Tears: The moms fighting against gun violence