Virginia Sen. Scott Surovell

State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th

Every Saturday morning, my father and 12 year-old son go to the Alexandria farmers market. My son gets cookies. My dad gets ham biscuits. A few weeks ago, they brought me some homemade salsa. More recently, they got something else.

Four men in a group called “The Right to Bear Arms” showed up at the farmers market carrying AR-15 assault rifles outfitted with scopes and bipods for sniping. According to a video by one of the group‘s members, they staged this action to “educate people” about gun rights and “exercising our constitutional rights without fear to do so.” The video is also filled with the usual references to freedom and the government taking away rights if you do not use them. The man also indicated the group intended to do these kind of “monthly walks.”

While the current president has lowered the bar for socially acceptable political conduct and while the display was technically legal, it was outrageous.

It never escapes me that Lee Boyd Malvo and John Muhammad, better known as the “D.C. snipers,” terrorized Northern Virginia for two weeks using an AR-15. Every time I hear that word, it triggers memories for me of the 10 people who were murdered and three others, including a 13-year-old, who Malvo and Muhammad shot in the region in 2002. 

Those memories have only been reinforced by the recent carnage inflicted by the AR-15, including in Poway, Aurora, Orlando, Parkland, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Waffle House, San Bernardino,  Sutherland Springs, El Paso, Tree of Life and Midland/Odessa two weeks ago.  The sight of an AR-15 in public is anything but reassuring. 

These “education lessons” are extremely dangerous. Perusing a farmers market with an assault rifle in a country that sees an assault rifle-related mass shooting about six times per year is more likely to promote shock, fear and terror than it is likely to “educate” anyone. 

If anything, the presence of an AR-15 is more likely to incite violence than to deter it.

The United States and Virginia are currently being strangled by a small minority that wields political power orders of magnitude larger than its numbers. Background checks are supported by more than 90% of the public. “Red flag” laws that would allow judges to take guns from dangerous persons are supported by over 80%.  Laws limiting ammunition clips are supported by over 60% of voters. Assault weapon bans have majority support. None of these bills are capable of passing in a Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly or the U.S. Senate because of internal Republican Party politics.

There is no question in my mind that the Right to Bear Arms’ displays at the farmers market were not done to “educate” anyone. They were done to threaten, intimidate and terrorize a community that believes firearms should be more tightly regulated. The First Amendment protects speech, but it does not protect physical threats. 

While the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who would never dream of parading their weapons in public spaces, this incident demonstrates there is a minority who are irresponsible.  Similarly, while most people drive safely, there are others who would be happy to drive 100 miles per hour on the Beltway. We have rules to keep our communities safe and control small groups of people who are incapable of being either responsible or exercising self-control. 

Fairfax County, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria (but not Prince William County) already wisely prohibit loaded rifles from being carried automobiles. But this incident only underscores the need for the commonwealth to prohibit the open carry of assault weapons at a minimum at permitted events or at public assemblages.  

Alternatively, the commonwealth should consider allowing localities to regulate the public carriage of assault rifles to ensure they are consistent with the expectations of each local community. I am sure we will be taking this up next session in Richmond. 

In the meantime, my advice for this group called “The Right to Bear Arms” is simple: Go home and stay away.  You are not doing anything to help your cause. People go to farmers markets to buy local food. They don’t go there for lessons in firearm rights, terrorism, bullying, intimidation or demonstrations of male insecurity. 

The writer, a Democrat, represents the 36th District in the Virginia state Senate. He can be reached at scott@scottsurovell.org

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(7) comments

Louf

Surovell is a political hack! I have zero respect for this politician who does not respect the 2A. Time to get him out of office asap!

Kevin Raymond

Surovell is not a hack....but a public servant who supports commonsense statutes. And Louf, do you support the 1 A? And of course, how about assault weapons that can kill 50 people in one minute??? Rocket scientist you are not.

wallet00

Whoever those Rifle toting guys were they created a massive NoVa s**t storm. I've read or viewed Multiple newspapers, News Vids, and Facebook pages on the topic. All condemned it, most contained personal accounts of the terror the author felt upon seeing a long gun, and all related it to some prior mass shooting. I don’t like the open carrying of long guns, but nothing, absolutely nothing, happened. So my dear buttercups, suck it up. What they did was legal. It was in a public place and the police were there. So stop whining about it. Even Maryland allows you to carry an unloaded long gun. Events like this are rare. If the entire Democrat hierarchy of the state hadn’t gone on a gun control and confiscation rant, none of this would have happened.

OBLUE

its columns like this that do nothing but bad mouth americans and the president that im glad these guys show up at these places

Omarndc72

So i guess Scott Surovell would be ok if it was gang members showing up from ms13 . What a clown this guy i lol

NotSheep

You know what kills more Americans than AR-15s?

Blunt Objects.

Fists & Feet

Knives and Sharp Objects

Cops

Opiates

Medical Malpractice and Mistakes

Cigarettes



Your real agenda is not the gun, it’s the control.



(Citations on request)

Gene Ralno

Current red flag laws allow a crotchety aunt to complain about a blustery nephew and state police will confiscate his firearms. It's precisely the power wielded by gauleiters serving the Third Reich. These laws empower government to repress people because it suspects they might do something nefarious or stupid.



Seems if one is believed to be dangerous, the state would be better served to arrest the person and leave his property for natural heirs. Last I heard, red flag or Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws are the only untenable positions taken by President Trump.



They’re unpopular because most judges aren't qualified to determine one's mental health and property is taken before the accused is indicted. That said, politicians who support this notion will regret the day they ever heard of red flag laws. Their legacies will carry a Supreme Court scolding and perhaps be a landmark of their careers. But not to worry. Red Flag laws will be overturned soon enough.



The Supreme Court isn't about to jeopardize its own reputation by reducing the ability of private citizens to defend themselves. It's especially important because currently, half the nation's murders occur in only 63 counties while the other half are spread across the other 3,081 counties. Said another way, 15 percent had one murder and 54 percent of the nation’s counties had no murders at all.



These laws were created to dilute the power licensed to the psychiatric community and transfer it to unqualified persons more obedient to democrats, e.g., local judges and disgruntled aunts. These confiscation laws are still being trumpeted by democrats because their usual gun control arguments have been lopsided, illogical losers.



Democrats and weak minded Republicans are victims of the bum's rush. They've been hoodwinked by Bloomberg's rhetoric and haven’t read his 2018 data. It reveals gun homicides declined seven percent, firearm injuries declined 10 percent, fatal child shootings (under 18) declined 12 percent and unintentional shootings plummeted 21 percent. Generally, since 1991, the murder rate has fallen by 45 percent and the overall violent crime rate has fallen by 48 percent.



Additionally, shooting incidents involving students have been declining since the '90s. During that time, citizens were buying a record number of firearms. In 2018, more than 26 million firearms were purchased, a number exceeded only by 27.5 million in 2016 when purchasers were mortified that Hillary might be elected.



Historically, in 2004, gun murders, already declining, continued to fall after the “assault weapon ban” expired. We noted in 2017, handgun homicides fell to 7,032 almost a historic low. Notably deaths by rifles, including the erroneously labeled “military style, assault weapon” AR-15, dropped to 403.



Further, a December 2018 Gallup Poll revealed that gun control is last on a list of what Americans cite as the most important problem facing the U.S. Seems government is the most important problem and immigration is second most important. Obviously, the democrats are pushing a solution in search of a problem.



Unarguably, our government cannot be trusted with the 2nd Amendment, just as our founders warned us. The primary problem with this nationwide hysteria to enforce red flag laws is none are crafted with sufficient protections for the accused. Apparently, we've been deluding ourselves that the U.S. judiciary would rather let ten guilty parties go free than convict one innocent person.



Additionally, these laws generally place enormous responsibility and pressure on police officers and judges to dispense pretrial punishment, just in case an owner might be mentally afflicted. This kind of punishment is overly severe to be based on amateur opinions afforded by all the red flag laws enacted thus far. I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will strike these laws down but in the meantime, many firearms owners will suffer needlessly. Lawsuits are sure to follow.



Since we're dealing with mentally troubled persons, any law should include diagnoses by licensed psychiatrists, one chosen from each side, before taking personal property and an indictment. Doubtlessly, we all know of judges and law officers who are far from qualified for such professional undertakings. I also doubt that they'd volunteer to diagnose mental illness if their jobs depended on doing it correctly.



This movement makes it clear that democrats want control without responsibility. I used to wonder why democrats saturate media outlets with soothing pleas for conversation instead of acting on their clear and ultimate goal of total confiscation. I assumed they stopped short of the extreme because they know firearms owners won't tolerate confiscation without unimaginable fury.



Passage of this act will stimulate the already confused democrats to report owners and at least temporarily terminate their 2nd Amendment rights. And firearms owners will never again trust their government. But this law and the effects on peaceable, lawful owners is part of a common democrat flimflam. Eventually they'll again get around to universal background checks that are impossible to manage without universal registration.



They need a universal firearm registry because it fundamentally transforms 140 million owners into dependents. Once they know who the owners are, they’ll choose which of them are allowed to be licensed. It’s the consummate entitlement. The democrat party cannot survive without more than half the nation being dependent on the government. Democrats trade entitlements for votes. It's the heart of their strategy.



Due process demands reports from two psychiatrists, one from each side, legal representation, arraignment, indictment and trial by jury. Democrats screech in the streets if denied a full measure of due process but close their eyes on the subject of self-defense by firearm. These laws open the doors to scorned partners, angry neighbors, children seeking a parent's wealth and arrogant judges.



The natural next step for any Nazified government was to codify empowerment of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, neighbors, judges, police officers, boyfriends, girlfriends, classmates, teachers, faculty, employers, co-workers and everyone except those actually qualified to judge mental competence. We’ll see an irrational rush to besmirch owners very much like the frenzied feeding during the Kavanaugh confirmation.



And you can count on democrats finding new restrictions that violate due process. Soon they’ll want to choose an upper age limit for people to be “allowed by the government” to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. It makes me wonder about the motive for Red Flag ERPO laws.

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