The 2020 Virginia Showdown
Rolling into 2020, all eyes are on Virginia following Governor Ralph Northam’s declared intention to pass onerous new gun control laws that could mandate the forced confiscation of common semi-automatic firearms which have been legal for Virginians to own for more than a century, ever since their invention. The first date in the coming showdown to be aware of is Monday, January 20th, when the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-Second Amendment group, is organizing a “Lobby Day” rally to be held at the state capitol to oppose these new gun control laws. It’s estimated that thousands of Virginians will attend the VCDL rally, many arriving in buses from all over the commonwealth.
In response to Northam’s plans, 90% of Virginia’s counties and many of its independent cities have declared themselves to be “second amendment sanctuaries.” After receiving vociferous pushback, Northam has recently stepped away from promising the outright confiscation of currently owned semi-auto weapons, and he is instead now demanding that gun owners register “grandfathered” weapons with the state government. Based on recent experiences in New York, Connecticut and other states that mandated registration, it’s assumed that very few Virginians will comply, instantly turning hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens into paper felons.
What will Northam’s response be to mass defiance of his gun control edicts? Common investigative tools could easily be used to locate non-compliant Virginians and arrest them on felony gun charges. At least some gun confiscation raids would inevitably lead to armed resistance, beginning a cycle of action and reaction that could, over time, grow into a low-intensity guerrilla conflict or a “dirty civil war.”
How plausible is this unwanted outcome? And what forms might a civil war over gun rights take? In certain respects we are in uncharted waters, because there are some new and unique variables in the known and studied civil war and counter-insurgency equations that are far out of line with available historical precedents. Chief among them: in all of history there has never been a civil war where, at the outset of hostilities, the resisting indigenous population was armed to the teeth with rifles capable of making 500 to 1,000 yard aimed precision shots. Never.
On average, approximately 64,000 people live in each of Virginia’s 133 counties and independent cities and towns, average land area 324 square miles. Measured another way, about 7,000 people live in each of Virginia’s 1,218 postal zip codes, average land area 42 square miles. About 250,000 Virginia state hunting license are issued each year, a small fraction of the total number of firearm owners. Now this is just a guess, but I’d bet that there are at least a hundred riflemen in every Virginia zip code capable of walking out their front door in the next five minutes, and making a rested 500 yard aimed precision shot. (For non-shooters, that means these marksmen can hit the man-size target they are aiming at.) And many of these marksmen are hunters and outdoorsmen who know their regional woods and forests like the backs of their hands.
But before any gun confiscation raids take place in Virginia, Northam’s new laws will be challenged in the courts, and, given the extremely dire potential unintended consequences, these legal challenges will quickly rise to the Supreme Court. The odds of the SCOTUS coming down on the side of confiscating millions of firearms that were legal and available for a century-plus until this year is practically nil. If the SCOTUS green-lighted Northam’s gun confiscation plans, nullifying the Second Amendment, they would virtually be declaring war on tens of millions of constitution-believing American citizens, igniting Civil War Two. Given this grim reality, and with the present SCOTUS, it’s almost inconceivable that Virginia laws permitting mass gun confiscation would be declared constitutional. Mandatory registration laws would be a more complicated issue. Creating hundreds of thousands of paper felons from those who refuse to register their firearms could simply lead to a multi-step means of confiscation via investigation, arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.
But even if the Virginia governor was given the go-ahead by the SCOTUS, and even if the present demographic shift in Virginia (based on mass immigration) continues to favor the Democrats in future elections, if any significant percentage of Virginians consider gun confiscation raids to be unconstitutional and worth resisting, make no mistake, there will be armed resistance. Many millions of Americans, including Virginians, consider mandatory gun registration (much less confiscation!) to be a necessary first step on the path to socialist tyranny, boxcars, gulags, and worse. If and when widespread gun confiscation begins, even under the cover of so-called “red flag” laws, or following the refusal of Virginians to comply with gun registration mandates, there will be a civil war.
The geography and topography of much of Virginia means that convoys of police cars and SUVs on gun confiscation missions will be forced to travel through labyrinthine terrain on their way to and from their objectives. After a few bloody (and all-too predictable) gun raid outcomes along the lines of Ruby Ridge or Waco, at least some Virginians will not simply wait for another law enforcement (LE) convoy to arrive unmolested on their street for the next set-piece gun confiscation raid. These LE convoys will be readily identifiable far in advance of their gun raid objectives, and in the event that this constitutional struggle over the Second Amendment turns kinetic, these confiscation convoys will be taken under accurate long-range fire from hidden marksmen on the way to or returning from their objectives.
In addition, there are not enough law enforcement helicopters in Virginia to protect these hypothetical columns of police cars and SUVs heading out to confiscate weapons that were perfectly legal for Virginians to own until now. The day that state LE helicopters are used to support gun raids, these helicopters, their bases and their supporting elements will become targets.
If all 7,500 members of the Virginia National Guard were ordered by Governor Northam to support the 2,100 Virginia State Police on these confiscation raids, they would drag their feet and make enough deliberate noise in their preparations and movements that they will have little or no effect. To put the maximum numbers of hypothetically available gun confiscators into perspective, remember that Virginia has a population of 8.5 million people spread over 43,000 square miles. Also consider that the deployment of Virginia National Guard troops to support state police gun raids is by no means certain. Read The Virginia Debacle, Summarized (And Why You Should Buy More Guns) by Michael Z. Williamson to learn why this is so.
And in my humble opinion, there is no way in hell that President Donald J. Trump will commit political suicide by sending federal forces to Virginia to back up Northam’s unconstitutional gun confiscation schemes, (no matter what the SCOTUS declares), in direct defiance of the passionate will of his base. The Virginia State Police will be on their own to carry out Northam’s orders, with minimal assistance from the Virginia National Guard and local LE. (On the other hand, if Trump is replaced in the White House in 2021 by a Democrat, and the Democrats somehow manage to carry both houses of congress, then all bets are off.)
But just for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that Northam attempted to enforce his gun confiscation and/or mandatory registration laws, and an armed resistance began. How have previous modern insurgencies fared against government forces? Please consider that from the 1980s until today, the full might of the Soviet and later the U.S. military has not been able to subdue a few thousand rag-tag Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, not even when the counter-insurgency troops were operating from secure fire bases located far away from their homes and families. During a civil war in Virginia, the homes and families of the gun confiscators will be scattered among those whose guns they will be tasked with confiscating. Not a pretty picture to contemplate, particularly in an era when doxing can readily be used as a weapon to identify and “out” perceived enemies. And if resistors are afraid to post the information on the internet, just picture leaflets scattered around a neighborhood identifying the gun confiscators. This would happen. Count on it.
It’s rightly assumed that Switzerland has never been invaded by an aggressive hostile neighbor due to its long historical tradition of nearly all Swiss men retaining their military-issue battle rifles in their homes for their entire lives following their brief stints in the military reserves. More rarely considered is the fact that Switzerland has also never suffered a tyrant who harshly ruled against the will of the people or tried to disarm them. (Swiss gun laws are changing now for a variety of reasons, but the point remains.)
Just visit Governor Northam’s Twitter account and you will see that 99% of the comments on any post that he makes are tearing him to shreds with thinly veiled threats. When @GovernorVA posts a Merry Christmas message, he receives an unending torrent of angry insults and warnings in return. Online, nobody is letting Northam forget his history of appearing in blackface next to a pal in KKK robes, or that “Coonman” was his college nickname. And nobody is forgetting his recent statements on post-birth baby killing. Nonetheless, he is currently the duly-elected governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
But an important point to consider is that it doesn’t really matter if 51% or 90% of Virginia gun owners roll over and comply with Northam’s gun confiscation and/or registration laws. If even a few percent dig in their heels and privately say “hell no,” that will be enough to lead to violence. To millions of Americans, gun registration and confiscation are simply steps on the path to tyranny and, in many historical examples, eventual genocide. At least tens of thousands of Virginians will refuse to take those first steps, no matter what the law demands of them.
Following inevitably bloody gun confiscation raids, what will matter is not state-wide polling, but the individual deer hunter or sporting marksman who decides to go out on his own with his Remington or Winchester. He will hear about the latest local gun raid, and he will know the exact choke point surrounded by thick cover through which the convoy of LE police cars and SUVs will need to drive on its egress. At first, armed resistance might take the form of warning shots into engines or tires. The armed resistor will then disappear into the landscape, after caching his rifle and picking up his fishing rod for cover. Unit size: one man. No comms, no “chatter.”
Next, the gun confiscators will begin to receive incoming pot-shots on their perimeter security elements while they are conducting suburban raids. The shooter will be back in bed before the gun raiders even know what happened. Step by step, action begetting reaction, a low intensity insurgency will grow and spread.
Consider the panic and mayhem unleashed in California a few years ago by just one angry villain conducting his own private war:
Christopher Jordan Dorner (1979-2013) was a Los Angeles police officer who, beginning on February 3, 2013, committed a series of shootings in Orange, Los Angeles, and Riverside County, California. The victims were police and civilians, including police families. Dorner killed four people and wounded three others. The rampage ended on February 12, 2013, when Dorner died during a standoff with San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputies after a shootout at a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains. A manifesto reportedly posted by Dorner on Facebook declared “unconventional and asymmetric warfare” upon the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), their families, and their associates, unless the LAPD admitted publicly he was fired in retaliation for reporting excessive force. In two separate incidents during the manhunt, police shot at three civilians unrelated to Dorner, mistaking their pickup trucks for the vehicle being driven by Dorner. One of the civilians was hit by the police gunfire, another was wounded by shattered glass, and a third individual was injured when police rammed his vehicle and opened fire.
A Virginia insurgency might begin with random single actors, then grow into squad-size actions undertaken by friends and relatives sharing a strong pre-existing bond of trust, before growing into a full-blown guerrilla war.
I always come back to what a few hundred “active IRA” in Northern Ireland managed over three decades against the power of the British military, including countless checkpoints, undercover intelligence units, widespread hidden cameras, off-the-leash SAS teams, “false-flag” discrediting operations, military helicopters and so on. In time, IRA-sympathizing Catholics left their back fences and doors unlocked so that IRA men on the run could scramble inside and hop into a bed, while their guns were concealed under the floorboards by the homeowners. Even if the British troops searched house by house up and down the street, they’d find nothing, but they would mightily anger the locals by brutally ransacking their homes. This kind of local support for resistors would evolve on its own during a dirty civil war in Virginia. (And also consider that Northern Ireland has one-eight the land area and one quarter the population of Virginia.)
Outnumbered a hundred to one by the British Army, this relative handful of active IRA tied down entire divisions for thirty years, but eventually the British gave up, signed a peace deal in 1998, and left. (And although it was required by the peace agreement, the IRA never disarmed.) And let’s not forget that a few thousand sandal-clad Taliban armed with rusty iron-sighted weapons, cell phones and walkie-talkies have fought the U.S. military to a standstill—and that is when our troops hold the major advantage of fighting from secure bases, and these troops’ families do not share neighborhoods with their enemies.
I’m simply not aware of any previous civil war where tens of thousands of aggrieved citizens began the struggle armed with rifles capable of making 500 yard and greater precision shots. This is an equation changer. Gun raids will not be possible for long if law enforcement convoys are taken under accurate fire en-route to and from gun confiscation operations, and roadside car-search checkpoint duty becomes a suicide mission. Never forget what happened to the British redcoats on the famous 1775 gun confiscation raids at Concord and Lexington, and perhaps more importantly, remember what happened to them during their retreat to Boston.
Make no mistake: gun confiscation laws, as well as laws making paper felons out of those who refuse to register their now-legal weapons (in order to expedite their future confiscation) will lead to armed resistance.
Next: On To Richmond!