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VCDL and Comparisons vs. Analogies

I’m about to dig myself a big ol’ hole, and go in way over my head. I’ve been blogging long enough to know this post is going to summon the drama llama, because if there’s one thing that’s been a constant — the longer I blog, the more negative people get if I state an opinion that doesn’t fall in line with the gun rights movement being one, big happy family. A family where all activism is good activism, all that matters are good intentions, and there can never be any methods or forms of activism that harm the movement as a whole.

But I can’t help but wondering if VCDL must be running out of things to occupy their time and energy if they are protesting local libraries posting signs that essentially echo Virginia law:

The library’s gun  policy reads, “Carrying concealed weapons is prohibited, except as permitted by law.”

I see that sign, and I’m thinking, “OK, I’m carrying a gun that is permitted by law, so I can go right in.” I think most people who have a legal firearm on them would come to the same conclusion. So what’s to protest? One could argue the sign is useless, and that would be a reasonable argument. One could also argue it confuses people as to their rights, which I think was VCDL’s point, but I’m not sure that point came across. The way Phillip Van Cleave frames this issue steps on another one of my pet peeves when it comes to directly comparing being a person who carries a gun to being a person who is black:

“What if they had said ‘We don’t allow African-Americans, except if allowed by law. Would that be okay? I don’t think so,” Van Cleave said outside the library.  “[The rule] implies that no one is allowed to protect themselves on the property.”

Carrying a gun is behavior that one has complete control over. Discriminating against someone because of an action is vastly different than discriminating over someone because of a condition of birth that they cannot help and have no control over. If you see a sign along a highway rest area that says “no guns,” you can choose to leave your gun in the car. You can’t choose to leave your black in the car. That’s why it’s not equivalent. The suggestion of equivalence here cheapens just how horrible the and immoral post-reconstruction Jim Crow actually was. It also ignores the long history of our law and society viewing regulating behavior as legitimate, but discriminating against conditions of birth as illegitimate.

We have to be very careful about drawing comparisons. I think it’s fine to make analogies and comparisons between our civil rights movement to preserve the Second Amendment, and other civil rights movements in history. I think it’s fine to point out the motivations of many early gun control laws were racist and xenophobic, and that many gun control advocates are closed-minded and hateful (dare I say bigoted?) against people who choose to exercise and advocate for their civil right to keep and bear arms. It would have even been fine, I think, for Phillip Van Cleave to make the analogy that we wouldn’t tolerate such a sign over a polling place suggesting blacks can’t vote, except as allowed by law, and I think that was likely the point he was trying to make. But the problem is that Van Cleave’s statement makes a comparison, rather than an analogy, that suggests being a gun owner is the persecutorial equivalent of being black in the Jim Crow South. I think that’s a comparison the vast majority of Americans are going to not only find unpersuasive, but that will actively turn them off to the message. Using analogies to other civil rights contexts is fine and necessary. It’s perfectly legitimate to point to suppression of RKBA and point out we would never accept this in other civil rights contexts, but we should be careful about making comparisons between behavior and conditions of birth.

19 Responses to “VCDL and Comparisons vs. Analogies”

  1. Well I guess you have to ask, who’d be offended? There are three categories of people.
    1. People who are offended but hate guns anyway
    2. People who might be offended and might turn against us
    3. People who won’t be offended enough or are already on our side.

    We can ignore categories 1 and 3. We just have to ask ourselves how big category 2 is. I honestly don’t think it’s that big.

    What VCDL is doing is advertising both his group and concealed carry in general. He’s outraging the people in category 1 (F-them) in order to get the media to pay enough attention to carry his message that carrying a gun is legal in libraries and that if you want to carry a gun, VCDL will show you how.

    We cannot afford to run a public information campaign all across the nation. We also can’t expect that the generally hostile media will carry our message for us in the same way that they might push a “green” agenda or some other feel-good liberal idea.

    Sebastian, you’re not a very controversial guy. You don’t seem to like controversy, and you certainly don’t seem to revel in it. There’s a certain joy in pissing off all the right people. You stick a pin in them and they reliably scream bloody murder. They look like idiots and they can’t help but make you look good by comparison. You’d rather that people would simply listen to the facts and logic and just accept that guns are ok, gun owners are ok, and carrying guns is ok. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

    Most of this stuff isn’t won on facts and logic. It’s won on raw political power. When Van Cleave causes havoc and makes the anti-gunners look powerless, he is showing the Virginia legislature that he has power and votes while the anti-gunners don’t. He’s denying the anti-gunners legitimacy. The media likes to puff the antis up and make them look like they are somehow equal in numbers to the pro-rights side, but stunts like this prove they aren’t.

    As for the argument that guns are not “immutable” it’s irrelevant. My right to keep and bear arms is immutable. Libraries are government buildings and they shouldn’t be permitted to post confusing signs. Your right to carry shouldn’t be contingent upon your ability to decipher bureaucratese.

    He’s also hoping that the librarians hate guns so much that they will take down the signs just to stop VCDL from having open carry meetings there.

    • ecurb says:

      I know for a fact that category 2 is huge. Overestimating the proportion of the population who are “with us or against us” is near-universal among activists of all kinds, and it leads to most of their crazier behavior.
      I’d guess this is why PETA think’s it’s sensible advocacy to prance around naked throwing red paint and acid on people: they honestly think it won’t alienate anyone except category 1, and F-them, right?

      TL;DR, it’s important not to give the intellectually lazy general public an excuse to think of you as “those crazy guys always protesting something“.

  2. cszy67 says:

    No need to worry Sebastian, VCDL is far from “running out of things to occupy their time.” I am not sure if you are a VCDL member or attend any of their meetings but one thing that sets VCDL apart is the fact that they are constantly working throughout the the Commonwealth on a wide range of issues.

    Regarding comparisons versus analogies you make some good points but you are missing the main point of the message – the library’s policy is confusing and there is an exceptionally high probability that it prevents lawful carry.

    Here is my point – if you were in Richmond, were lawfully carrying openly or concealed, and you read that policy while entering the library there is no doubt that at a minimum you would read and reconsider carrying. If in doubt, or playing it safe as most of us law abiding folks do, you would simply eliminate any chance of committing an unintentional crime and store the firearm in your car or just not enter the library at all. Either of those choices are a loss and are unnecessary.

    Now since VCDL has educated many of us, including you, if you were to visit that same library now you would not hesitate to enter with the knowledge that what you are doing is fully legal, others have done the same, and heck – there were dozens of folks doing the same thing you were doing recently on TV!

    If you want to split hairs and consider the “true” meaning of VCDL’s messages based upon subtle vocal inflections or random eye movements as display by Phil, go for it, lol. Then again, if you back off a few feet and see the entire picture you just may enjoy the entire view even more.

    And VCDL has such an incredible ability to seek out the truth and promote it they have had a significant influence on the pro-2A movement that has shaken the entire nation.

    In closing, I don’t see much of anything wrong with your article other than you are really diving deep down the rabbit hole and picking apart an isolated few words from a story that has been being told since the early 1990s. No harm, no foul :)

  3. Archer says:

    Part of me thinks Mr. Van Cleave is going for outrage by comparing gun rights to racially-based civil rights, and that may or may not be OK. Like it or not, outrage – at least temporarily, until level-headedness takes over again – sways public opinion.

    Still, if it were my message to write, I wouldn’t have gone there. My comparison/analogy would have been, “Free expression and discussion of ideas is prohibited, except as permitted by law.” Instead of comparing it to the Jim Crow laws – which will always piss some people off no matter what your message is – try comparing it to another enumerated right. If we’re going to make analogies, apples-to-apples comparisons work much better, in my opinion.

    Just my $0.02.

  4. Cargosquid says:

    Having met Mr. Van Cleve, I have to say that I don’t think that he is trying to cause outrage.

    1) The library’s sign is a replacement for a previous sign that banned guns. THEY are playing games.
    2) You’re right. Comparisons and analogies based upon race are tricky. I think the VCDL’s intention was closer to Sean’s opinion that the right is immutable. That’s how they’ve treated it in the past.
    3) And Archer is right that the VCDL wins by demonstrating its power to the local politicians. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?

    Hey, LOOK! We’re ALL right.

    Don’t ya love it when that happens.

  5. Greg says:

    You are missing a lot of context for this comment on VCDL’s move to protest the library. Every legislative session for many years now a bill has been introduced to ban carry in all libraries in Virginia. There has never been any evidence brought forth to support the notion but the antis and media have jumped all over it. Screams of who needs a gun in a library echo throughout the newspapers from one corner of the sate to the other. You should know better than to give them any toe hold in banning carry anywhere. This particular library has a sign at the door with a gun in the red circle/slash meaning to every Virginian that you can not come in here with a gun. Then if you notice it has the confusing language next to the gun. So what are you going to do? As you walk in the door there are a pair of what looks like metal detectors that you have to walk through to enter. Is the alarm going to tell the world you are CC’ing. Do you feel luck that you will not end up with a visit by the Richmond P.D.? Well do you? Are you going to let them ban guns by confusion? I say no! Once they have to toe hold how long before the matter comes up as support for the library ban bill?

  6. AntiCitizenOne says:

    I’d rather Van Cleave have used the gay rights analogy, because being born African American is something you have no choice over, vs being homosexual apparently is a choice, hence the term “coming out of the closet.”

    • AZ Fortune Cookie says:

      “coming out of the closet” refers to disclosing to family members/friends/the public that an individual is homosexual, not that they have “decided” to be gay.

      • AntiCitizenOne says:

        Okay, so my own analogy as told here doesn’t really hold up, let me try and rephrase it.

        Ask a homosexual about when they knew they were gay and almost all of them will actually give a time period, as if it was an actual choice to themselves, and knowing that their decision would not be a light one, given the fact that the lifestyle in of itself is a sort of counterculture as viewed by their opponents, not to mention an “abomination” in the eyes of the Westboro Baptist freaks.

        In a sense we’re made out to be the counterculture by the lamestream progressive-controlled MSM, we should be using this to our advantage.

        The “coming out of the closet” analogy can help with gun owners who are discovered (voluntarily or involuntarily) by antigun friends, employers, and family and are wrongfully shunned and defamed by them. One way to help gain rapport with homosexual psych patients is to ask them how was the coming-out process for them as it may help us give insight into how we can better understand them for therapy or for any inpatient treatment communication and decision making.

        • I think that comparing it to homosexuality is a better fit than racism. If you’re black, it’s pretty obvious. Gay people can hide their orientation. I can hide that I’m pro-gun and many pro-gun people did hide because for years the only source of news, the MSM, told us that we were a minority and everyone hated us. Strangely that hasn’t turned out to be the case. We “come out of the gun safe” and we mostly find that no one really worries. There are people like Brady and CSGV (the latter would be the Westboro Anti-gun Church) who try to hassle us, but they are the minority.

          Hopefully it will work out the same for gays. A couple of real jerks, and a majority who either don’t care or who are supportive.

          Of course, we gun owners actually ARE actively recruiting. That does make us different than gays, and a lot more threatening.

  7. Alien says:

    Sorry, Sebastian, I’m 100% behind VCDL on this.

    Example: Public libraries in Orange County Florida (Orlando) have small (6″ X 8″) stick-on signs adjacent to their front doors stating that “firearms and weapons are not permitted on this property per Florida Statutes Chapter 790.01” with the usual picture of a gun and a knife in a red circle with a 45 degree red line through the images.

    Here’s the applicable statutory language in 790.01:

    790.01 Carrying concealed weapons.–

    (1) Except as provided in subsection (4), a person who carries a concealed weapon or electric weapon or device on or about his or her person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

    (2) A person who carries a concealed firearm on or about his or her person commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

    (3) This section does not apply to a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon or a concealed firearm pursuant to the provisions of s. 790.06.

    (790.06 is the statute section that sets forth CCW permit requirements and has language stating that if all requirements are satisfied one may obtain, and use, a concealed carry license/firearms permit.)

    Notice that paragraphs 1 and 2 state “you can’t carry” and paragraph 3 says “if you have a valid permit you can ignore paragraphs 1 and 2.” Plus, Florida has a pre-emption law – to which was added strong teeth in 2011 – and libraries are not on the list of prohibited carry facilities which are individually listed in 790.06, subchapter 12. (Sidenote: a lot of Florida CCW holders erroneously believe it is illegal to carry in all government buildings in Florida, which is the case in other states (ex: South Carolina); if it’s not on the “prohibited facility” list in 790.06 (12) it’s legal. There may be sections inside the building where it is prohibited under certain conditions. Ex: council/commission chambers in county administration buildings while a council/commission meeting is in progress. As always, get competent legal advice prior to engaging in the behavior.)

    A lot of CCW holders have assumed this sign means they cannot legally carry their concealed firearm in a library in Orange County. They are wrong. It is legal under 790.01. When these signs went up a couple of years ago I raised the issue with library management; libraries being run and staffed predominantly by far-lefties, their only regret was that they could not prohibit CCW in libraries under state law. They did the next best thing, however, which was to put up signs with ambiguous wording that would discourage those who had not read the law from carrying.

    VCDL actively engages in combating this sort of thing, and my opinion is that we all have to or we’ll slowly lose our rights, one ambiguously worded sign at a time. Enough of these signs and the marginally-inclined carriers may give up with “why bother, I can’t carry my gun in so many places it’s not worth the trouble to get a permit.”

    I realize many on the pro-gun side take offense to Van Cleave’s tactics, but a right not defended or used is a right soon lost. To those I’d suggest breathing through your nose and accepting the benefits people like Van Cleave and the VCDL deliver.

  8. MicroBalrog says:

    Religion is clearly a ‘choice’.

    Wearing the implements of your religion – a Jewish kippa, or a cross, or whatever – is certainly a choice.

    But a sign with ‘NO KIPPAS EXCEPT WHERE ALLOWED BY LAW’ would clearly be seen as bigoted. The difference between behavior and inherent features of a person is completely pulled out of the thin air.

  9. Kat says:

    I’m a member of the VCDL and I cringed when Van Cleave made that comparison. He shouldn’t have compared the library posting to a race discrimination issue. They are not even close to being the same issue.

  10. Mike123 says:

    Since gun control in the South was implemented to disarm the slaves and later the Freedmen, Van Cleave has a strong historical basis to make the claim and tie to slavery and racism.

    We don’t have to look very far back in the history books to see the connection. GCA of 1968 was driven by the riots in the cities that resulted from Dr. King being murdered.

  11. Boyd says:

    I wouldn’t have made the “Blacks aren’t allowed” analogy, either, but Philip is a smart man. You’d have to present some pretty strong evidence that he’s wrong to convince me, based on his track record.

    And regarding the library signs, they’re trying to deceive the public in general, not just folks who carry guns. I tend to think that shining the disinfectant of truth to scrub out the liars is almost always worthwhile.

  12. The question to ask is WHY put that item on the sign – what purpose does it have? Why is it a negative: “Concealed handguns are prohibited, unless…” As opposed to a positive: “Concealed and openly carried handguns are welcome (concealed requires a concealed handgun permit or being a police officer).”

    Only one reason: to discourage and confused citizens. One of the tv stations asked someone to read the wording and tell them if a person could carry. The person couldn’t tell.

    THAT’S the reason for the protest. Government trickery is not a good thing. Yes, another analogy could have been used by me: “Women in dresses are not allowed except as permitted by law.” or “No gays and lesbians, except as permitted by law.” The principle is exactly the same.

  13. Dale W says:

    1) I think you made a cogent arguement; summarized as think before you speak. Often, in our haste to provide reasoned and pithy commentary, poorly crafted responses detract from the intended meaning. (see what I mean?)
    2)Could you possibly be giving too much credit to the people who made the sign? Seeing that the library is a state or local institution, one needs to understand that communications in those orginizations is like a childhood game of “post office”.
    There tends to be a bit of disconnect between top and bottom…
    3)Leading to “Law of Unintended Consequences”.
    4) Though poorly written, the meaning of the sign can be reasoned. The need to write down to the comprehension level of a 10-year old is specious; 10-year olds can’t legally carry a concealed firearm.
    5) Brevity, brevity, brevity!

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