Thursday, June 21, 2007
Last month, I wrote a column focusing on a group of gun owners in Virginia who held a raucous gathering and gun giveaway as a way of thumbing its nose at gun control advocates, specifically New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (Automatics for the People/5.18.07). The Virginia Citzens Defense League believes that Bloomberg has infringed on its Second Amendment rights by filing a series of lawsuits against gun dealers in Virginia; these lawsuits have been based on information obtained by undercover private investigators from New York, all of whom Bloomberg authorized to conduct investigations far outside his own city. Bloomberg's rationale is that certain weapons dealers in Virginia are illegally selling guns which eventually end up being used in violent crimes in New York City; these undercover stings apparently prove as much.
On the night of May 17th, the VCDL invited its members to strap on their dual-sidearms -- which they proudly did -- and head on down to a tiny government building in Annandale, Virginia for the "Bloomberg Gun Giveaway." The group raffled off a Para-ordnance handgun and a "Varmint Stalker" rifle (and no, I'm not making that up) and showed off a cake adorned with an unflattering picture of Bloomberg. They laughed and whooped it up. They ridiculed their alleged oppressors. They had a hell of a time.
Meanwhile, outside, a small group gathered to quietly protest all this he-man gun lust; among them were the parents of some of the kids shot down in the Virginia Tech massacre -- which had occurred almost a month to the day previously.
Responding to the protest, Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave took the road most traveled by gun advocates, saying that although he sympathized with the families of those lost, he firmly believed that more guns on campus would've prevented such a tragedy.
At the time, I said that to call the entire gruesome curiosity obscene would be an insult to obscenity. Also, in keeping with the mission statement printed in bold letters directly beneath the headline at the top of this page ("Making a Mockery of Mockery"), I took a few admittedly juvenile shots at the apparent preponderance of overweight rednecks in a group bearing such a muscular name -- my point being that these clowns didn't look like they could "defend" a Twinkie from themselves.
Well, as it turns out, Philip Van Cleave read what I wrote -- and decided to write me back:
Your description of VCDL and its members bears no resemblance to the group. We have lots of professionals, police officers, firemen, attorneys, military, etc. We have members of all races, too. So assuming that we are racist or stupid is really your own prejudice against gun owners showing through. If you go to our web site (www.vcdl.org), you can see video of us in action. It clearly won't be what you expect to see.
Philip Van Cleave
Short and sweet.
In fact, my immediate reaction upon reading it was to say, "That's all?"
The fact that Mr. Van Cleave chose to zero in on one offhand comment instead of confronting every other argument I made in that original column proves one of two things -- either I'm not making myself clear enough, or he doesn't have a leg to stand on. (There is a third possibility, which is that he's been forced to defend this ridiculous spectacle so many times over the past month that he's sick of bothering.)
As far as I can tell, I did make myself pretty damn clear:
"Anyone whose judgment is so lousy that he would throw a party and gleefully thumb his nose in the face of families recently devastated by gun violence can't be trusted with a deadly weapon. If the mere feelings of another human being are of no consequence to these dolts, I find it impossible to believe that the human life they have the potential to take will be of much more value.
These aren't gun enthusiasts -- these are gun worshippers. That's the problem, because as my father taught me so long ago -- there should be no such thing.
It's one thing to recognize a weapon as a necessity, a means to and end, even an instrument of sport -- of enjoyment; it's another thing entirely to believe it to be a large part of your identity -- your very manhood.
Anyone who thinks this way shouldn't be allowed to own a gun."
As for what gives me the credentials to make such an assertion, it goes back to the man mentioned in the above excerpt -- my father. I wrote at the time about his exploits as both a Navy SEAL commander and a cop -- and the man who taught me how to use and respect a weapon. If you'll pardon the pun, this shoots an awful lot of holes in Mr. Van Cleave's claim that I have a prejudice against gun owners. Far from it.
What I have a problem with is irresponsible gun owners -- and as far as I'm concerned, there's little that's more irresponsible than throwing a heavily armed frat-party. It shows zero respect for the awesome power you wield in exercising your Second Amendment rights -- and that makes you dangerous, and unfit to carry a gun. Period.
Still, in the interest of fairness, I took Mr. Van Cleave's advice and checked out the VCDL's website. I highly suggest taking a look for yourself; that's the only way to truly appreciate the surreal lunacy of it all.
The home page features an initial description of the group, touting in big, bold letters its belief that "the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental human right." For those keeping track -- you're entitled to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and a crap-load of heavy weaponry (which, one imagines, would fall under the "pursuit of happiness" clause for most in the VCDL anyway).
As you further peruse the group's page, you find pictures of the massive success that was the Bloomberg Gun Giveaway Extravaganza, including a few photos of Philip Van Cleave himself (nice utility belt, Batman).
Also included in the slideshow by the way is a picture of one of the protesters of this little gathering. Suffice to say, the staff of caption writers for the VCDL, although not quite as unnecessarily florid as myself and some others, are damn sure as caustic when it comes to ridiculing those they don't particularly like.
All of this is just the amuse bouche for the truly tasty treat to be found in the links section however.
A glance to the right side of the homepage reveals two links, one called "Gun Friendly Lawyers" -- because apparently you never know when you're going to need one of those -- and the second, and infinitely more humorous, called "Gun Owner Unfriendly."
Yes, it's an enemies list.
Click it, and a world of jaw-dropping insanity comes alive.
Among the businesses the VCDL -- a group which promotes the notion that every citizen should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon -- has pegged as "unfriendly" to those carrying guns:
First Union Bank.
King's Dominion Theme Park.
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Shops (damn hippies).
They call these businesses and many others like them "Criminal Safe Zones."
I couldn't, in my wildest Edgar Allen Poe-like delerium, conceive of a group of people sitting around angrily pondering why a fucking bank doesn't want concealed weapons getting through its front doors.
Yet there it is -- the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
I'd like to thank Mr. Van Cleave for writing, and for allowing me to see that he, in fact, was correct: His group isn't what I expected -- it's a whole hell of a lot worse. It's a group that's not only too irresponsible to be allowed to carry weapons -- it's too goddamned stupid.