As I watched thousands of white men proudly spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day toting firearms down the streets of Virginia’s capital city, angrily protesting proposed gun laws supported by a large majority of the state’s residents, I reached an inescapable conclusion: I might be white-man-ing incorrectly.
The Monday protest seemed to highlight my many failings as a white man in his late 40s. For example, I have spent most of my adult life thinking it would be, at the very least, rude for a civilian to carry an assault rifle around in public, even if that civilian had the right to do so.
Apparently I was mistaken. Monday’s rally showed that a large adult male holding a high-powered weapon in public while demanding something most people oppose is the purest expression of freedom and patriotism and not, as I previously suspected, a selfish display aimed at making others feel threatened and uncomfortable.
How I could be so wrong is beyond me.
Jeff Hulbert, of a Maryland group called Patriot Picket, which describes itself as “Defenders of Liberty and the 2nd Amendment,” described Monday’s protest to the Washington Post: “This is the Woodstock of the 2nd Amendment.”
Now I’ve missed Woodstock twice.
What brought pro-gun protesters, militia members, conspiracy theorists and a sprinkling of neo-Nazis to Richmond, Va., is gun control legislation proposed by the state’s newly Democratic-controlled General Assembly. The legislation, which I idiotically thought sounded sensible, includes:
• A one-handgun-purchase-per-month limit.
• Universal background checks on gun sales.
• Language that allows localities to ban guns in some public places.
• A “red flag” law that would help authorities remove guns from anyone deemed dangerous to themselves or others.
Turns out I should view those ideas as “tyranny.” I regret the error.
The other fundamental error I made was not realizing that the views of a small number of predominantly white, male gun worshipers should take precedent over everyone else’s view.
Democrats took control of the state legislature and the governor’s office on a platform of tougher gun laws.
A September Washington Post-Schar School poll found 88% of Virginians support expanding background checks and 82% support “red flag” legislation. The poll also showed that more than 80% of Republicans, Democrats and independents support universal background checks.
Some of that thinking might have been spurred by actual data. The gun-control advocacy group Gun Violence Archive reported Monday that in the first 20 days of the new year, there have been: 763 gun deaths; 1,427 gun injuries; 28 children ages 11 and younger shot; 150 kids and teenagers ages 12 to 17 shot; 15 police officers shot; and 14 mass shootings.
Just Sunday night, two people were killed and 15 wounded when a gunman fired at a line of people waiting outside a bar in Kansas City, Mo., to celebrate the Super-Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs’ victory.
But in the face of overwhelming evidence that America has a violence problem exacerbated by readily available firearms, and that the clear desire of most Americans is to see tighter restrictions on firearms, Monday’s Virginia rally showed that neither of those things should matter to white men who like guns.
Which brings us back to my incorrect white-man-ing. To better fall in line with the examples set by these pro-gun protesters, I put together a to-do list:
• Stop being a liberal weenie and recognize that, as a white man in America, I am the victim. (This can be applied to anything that isn’t handled in the exact way I want it to be handled, be it gun control, impeachment, the #MeToo movement, political correctness, etc.)
• Begin to fear everything EXCEPT gatherings of thousands of predominantly white men carrying large and intimidating firearms in public spaces.
• Purchase an unnecessarily large and intimidating firearm and then get mad that I can’t purchase more unnecessarily large firearms faster.
• Wear camouflage in places where it makes me stick out rather than blend in, like on the streets of a state’s capital city on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
• Equate my right to protest while carrying an unnecessarily large, intimidating firearm to all other forms of protest in which people don’t carry large firearms, and refuse to acknowledge the difference.
• Speak endlessly about my love of freedom and democracy while ignoring any outcomes arrived at freely and democratically that get in the way of me purchasing more firearms and carrying them wherever I want.
• Respect the strength and patriotism of thousands of white men carrying firearms through the streets while not admitting that I might have a wholly different opinion if those firearm-carrying men were predominantly nonwhite.
Hopefully this list will get me more “in sync” with the Virginia protesters. If I read Monday’s rally right, I’m entitled to be well-armed and unreasonable.
Why the heck have I waited so long?
Rex Huppke is a Chicago Tribune columnist. Readers may send him e-mail at email@example.com.