(Left: Virginia House of Delegates, 24th District’s Ronnie Campbell at the Buena Vista American Legion Building on December 8, 2019. Right: Two armed police officers at the event.)
(I wrote this post on Sunday, December 8, after attending Virginia House of Delegates member Ronnie Campbell’s townhall meeting in Buena Vista, Virginia. The gun sanctuary decision was made the following night, December 9, by the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors, who met at Rockbridge County High School. I will write a new post soon about the December 9th meeting and decision. The next post should demonstrate that I did listen to people’s concerns about common sense gun reform, learn a lot of gun vocabulary, deepen my awareness of local culture, and come to understand even more poignantly the power of the NRA lobby in the GOP and, by extrapolation, our nation.)
You may know me. I am one of the tens of thousands of Democrats who, in November of 2016, joined with friends and neighbors to decry the result of the presidential election, feel shame that I had not been more active before that point, and resolve to do something about it. “It,” meaning all of it: stop-and-frisk police stops and killing of African American individuals; violence against and intimidation of immigrants; attempts to remove basic healthcare from millions of hardworking residents of the United States; and rampant corruption of the newly-elected president, so afraid to have his tax documents shared and so in the back pocket of a foreign government looking to manage the United States through its toady president. You know me because I teach you, or live next to you, or am related to you, or sat next to you today at a meeting about gun sanctuaries.
My husband teaches at the sole public high school in our county in rural southwestern Virginia. Four years ago, he almost singlehandedly beat back a gun raffle (it’s exactly what it sounds like) being held at the high school in support of the wrestling team. When the raffle got cancelled, my husband was threatened by a county Board of Supervisors member inside the school. After Parkland in 2018, my husband and many of his colleagues at the high school asked the Rockbridge County School Board and Board of Supervisors to consider greater safety measures for the high school. The measure was never taken up, nor indeed responded to. 200 students bravely participated in a walkout soon thereafter, but the school board and board of supervisors never paid them any mind.
Now, the post blue-wave, mobilized Republican Committee of our area is responding to the Virginia Citizens Defense League by proposing that our county be a “gun sanctuary county.” The Board of Supervisors meeting is of particular interest tomorrow because the Board will hear a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolution, of the type drafted and approved by over thirty Virginia counties (Washington Post 11/29/19 Editorial linked here). Some residents are advocating that the sheriff and law enforcement defy any state laws passed to implement common-sense gun safety reforms. We Democrats in the area are concerned about mob rule and lawlessness, as well as general safety in a state that has seen the Virginia Tech massacre, (2007), the Charlottesville violence (2017; Gender Shrapnel post here), and the Virginia Beach shooting (2019).
The Board of Supervisors has chosen to hold the gun sanctuary resolution discussion and decision at our local high school. Keep in mind the school shootings that have taken place in the United States since Columbine (and note that there have been 45 school shootings in 46 weeks in 2019; related Gender Shrapnel post here). Tomorrow night, when the meeting takes place, my husband and 150 students, parents, and coaches will be at the high school for a home meet of the academic team. My daughter will be wrapping up swim practice for the high school. Nice time to hold a gun sanctuary meeting at a public school. When my husband wrote to the chair of the Board of Supervisors to express concern about the confluence of the gun sanctuary meeting and regular school-type events, he received no reply. But, at Friday night’s holiday parade, he did feel a large presence grab his right shoulder then his left, hold him place, put his mouth on my husband’s ear, and threaten him verbally. You know me. I’m the woman whose family is not allowed to express concern about safety without being physically and verbally threatened.
When I spend a Sunday afternoon at the American Legion in Buena Vista, Virginia, I am sitting with Republican neighbors. They introduce themselves in a friendly way, a little less friendly when the word spreads through the crowd that I am from the other side. The American Legion building has framed military uniforms, a framed copy of the American Legion constitution, enough American flags to keep a whole town warm at night, and 170 chairs set up for constituents of the Virginia 24th District, one of which I am. About sixty of us are to sit back, relax, and hear Virginia House of Delegates member Ronnie Campbell prepare them (us?) for the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors meeting the following evening. Our delegate frames the gun sanctuary discussion through the lens of voter ID (“everybody thinks they can vote”), abortion (“there’s stuff coming at us”), the news media (“Fox is the only one left out there. Citizens are not properly informed”), and Trump (“one of the best presidents we’ve ever had”).
Guns are metonymy for Republican talking points, and they are real objects that kill real people. You know me, and I have had enough.