“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” – Donald Trump, 4/17/20
Four days ago, armed protestors in Lansing, Michigan carried flags and signs demanding to “Live Free or Die” and “End the Lockdown” in defiance of state orders prohibiting large gatherings and requiring residents to stay at home unless they are engaged in essential business. Some protestors carried menacing-looking rifles slung across their chests or over their shoulders. Others wore pistols holstered at their waists.
The purpose of this weaponry is unclear. Firearms are, of course, useless in combatting the coronavirus or any infectious disease. And, really, lockdown measures have nothing to do with one’s ability to possess guns. Even in blue-state Connecticut, gun shops have been designated essential businesses and continue to operate. The display of arms, then, seems to be a show – weapons as props. Carrying them thusly is certainly speech – a silent message to fellow citizens and those in power.
What is this message though? Do these protestors – who are overwhelmingly male – really mean to say that they intend to fight our government in the streets? Are they actually prepared to engage in combat – bullets and casings flying about on the streets of the capitol? Are their statements in earnest?
Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Murrah bombing – an event that will not be publicly commemorated due to the prohibitions against crowds. Those who continue to grieve have stayed home, while these disgruntled ones – their guns displaying implicit threats – rally, with an intent to do harm by blocking streets and a hospital entrance. Are these protestors Timothy McVeighs in waiting? Do they mean to attack our government or injure fellow citizens like the infamous terrorist?
Like McVeigh, they are obsessed with guns. The health and safety of others means less to them than the deadly weapons they carry. They love their inanimate metal more than the people who share their hometowns and homeland. They want to display their arms in places where and at a time when their cause amounts to nothing more than a sideshow. The presence or absence of weapons in public places is meaningless when crowded intensive care units and morgues make clear the difference between philosophical disputes and a pandemic crisis.
Our nation grapples with a 21st century health threat while these protestors remain mired in a cause that should have been buried by the rubble of a fallen federal building in Oklahoma City more than two decades ago. Distressingly, 168 victims may have been an insufficient sacrifice to the gun-lust and ruthless egotism of these fanatics. More victims may be laid low at their demand – though this time by contagion rather than explosion. Their flagrant displays continue to terrorize.