The year has barely begun, and already Virginia has experienced a state of emergency. The recently elected Governor Northam issued the executive order on Jan 15; the state of emergency lasted from Jan 17 to Jan 21 and included an order prohibiting citizens from carrying weapons in the Virginia State Capitol. Northam issued the executive order in response to a rally protesting gun control legislation that is currently being voted on.
Tom LaFountain, assistant professor for criminal justice, has been closely following these events.
“One of [the governor’s] first big things was to push for some kind of gun control measure,” LaFountain said. “So, in response, the advocates for the second amendment decided that they wanted to hold a rally against that.”
LaFountain said that although the notion of having so many people on state property carrying guns was certainly concerning, the state of emergency was issued in response to a much smaller subgroup that it was feared may incite violence.
“The thing that really tipped this off was that there was some intelligence that there were going to be groups that advocated violence at this meeting,” LaFountain said. “They were really worried that those were the people that were going to cause problems.”
Despite initial backlash to the state of emergency, the rally occurred peacefully on Jan 20. However, the gun control legislation is continuing to move forward and is expected to be voted on by the full House this week.
The issue with the debate surrounding the Second Amendment, according to LaFountain, is based on the subjectivity of the Second Amendment.
“None of the rights we have in the first 10 amendments are absolute,” LaFountain said.
LaFountain cited the First Amendment, the right to free speech, as an example; he says that many people see as this as the “paramount” of rights and the “basis for democracy.”
“But even then, you can’t just simply say things,” LaFountain said. “You cannot libel or slander a person... there are limitations on everything, and quite honestly, I believe there are limitations that can be put on guns and gun ownership.”
LaFountain does not believe that the debate will end anytime soon.
“This is going to be something that’s probably going to be ongoing,” LaFountain said. “This is a controversy that’s been going on for a while and as long as the two parties hold their position there are always going to be conflicts here.”
LaFountain said that people should pay attention to the news and stay in-tune as much as possible with what is happening with this debate.
“Part of being a responsible citizen is being fully aware of what’s going on,” LaFountain said. “These things that happen in other states they’ll get litigated probably in the federal court, it may even get to the Supreme Court... then all of a sudden, it affects the other states, including Indiana.”
To those currently struggling to decide which side of the debate they will land on, LaFountain gives the following advice.
“Read, read, and read,” LaFountain said. “The thing is, if you have an opinion, it doesn’t matter what it is, but you should be able to tell people why you have that opinion and how you came to that opinion; you should be able to support it rather than just having an opinion.”