Let the leviathans of Washington and Richmond take notice. The Jeffersonian foresters of Rockbridge County, Virginia, stand ready to defend their most rooted of rights, that of bearing arms. “The Second Amendment holds all of our other rights together,” as one patriot quoth. And another affirmed: “Defenseless people are more easily enslaved.” So passionate were our Founding Fathers about this lynchpin of Madison’s Bill of Rights, they nailed it down with two superfluous commas, lest elite grammarians should begin chipping away at it in later eras of decadence.

Never has a local governmental meeting drawn a larger crowd, reported the weekly News-Gazette. More than 1,200 swains from the hills and hollers, stately in their caps and t-shirts, crowded into the auditorium and a spillover space of Rockbridge County High School and demanded “sanctuary” from the anticipated gun confiscation that the new Democratic majority would be approving soon in the commonwealth’s General Assembly.

The First Amendment might protect this soul-stirring protest and its articulation of Virginia’s ancient cry of “Sic semper tyrannis,” but should their brave words fail, it is the riveted steel of Second Amendment that props up such notions as “peaceably to assemble” or “redress of grievances.” Get real, O brothers and sisters of ancestral protest movements.

Your Civil Rights Movement achieved modest victories, but think of how much more it might have nailed down had it embraced the battle cry of this Rockbridge uprising. Stride toward freedom, “I am a man,” and I have a dream, yes, but what if SCLC and the Freedom Riders had also brandished AK-47s and open-carry sidearms to underscore their resolve? Think how that optic might have swiftly and peacefully integrated our Southern public schools.

And how about more recent social movements? Occupy Wall Street – with shotguns and semi-automatic backup – would surely have brought J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs to the bargaining table. And #MeToo and Times Up? Men would have paid more tender attention to the revelations of these movements had they been supported by credible firepower, and a stated willingness to use it.

The civic art of persuasion, as the Rockbridge protesters learned by winning a 4-to-1 vote from the county Board of Supervisors, reaches its golden mean when backed by gun talk. The Second Amendment, whatever “well-regulated” means, is mightier than the First!


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Doug Cumming

Doug Cumming

Doug Cumming worked for newspapers and magazines in Raleigh, Providence and Atlanta for 26 years before getting a Ph.D. in mass communication at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002. Since then, he has taught at Loyola University in New Orleans and Washington & Lee University, where he is now a tenured associate professor of journalism. His first book, "The Southern Press: Literary Legacies and the Challenge of Modernity," has been published by Northwestern University Press. His father, Joe Cumming, was the Atlanta bureau chief for Newsweek magazine during the years of the Civil Rights movement.