Delegate LaRock Calls on Governor Northam to Deescalate 2nd Amendment Crisis in Virginia
Hamilton, VA – Attached are two letters communicating a very urgent need for action by Governor Northam to deescalate the situation brought about by proposed legislation, public statements, and budget appropriations connected to gun confiscation and red flag laws in Virginia.
Just before Christmas, Del. LaRock received a letter (attached) from Michaela Claywell, a constituent who is the wife of an active-duty Virginia Guardsman. She revealed to Del. LaRock threats of severe violence being made against Guardsman on social media related to how a Guardsman would act if called upon to enforce unconstitutional gun laws being proposed in the 2020 session of the General Assembly. Michaela Claywell, along with the wives of numerous high-level officers in the Virginia National Guard, are asking the governor, Delegate LaRock, and other state and federal elected officials to deescalate the situation immediately. The threats are being investigated by the Virginia State Police and hopefully we will learn who is responsible.
Del. LaRock said, “I have written a letter to Governor Northam asking him to meet with the wives of the Virginia Guard officers to explain how he specifically plans to take immediate action to deescalate this situation. I have been told by Michaela that this situation is harming careers and undermining the safety and peace-of-mind of families across Virginia.”
Del. LaRock’s letter to Governor Northam (attached) was sent electronically on Monday, December 30th. To date, the Governor has not provided a response. This is an urgent matter and needs to be treated as a very high priority.
(About Dave LaRock
Delegate Dave LaRock represents the 33rd House District, including parts of Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick Counties. LaRock serves on the Transportation Committee, the Science and Technology Committee and the Education Committee, as well as the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability, and the Joint Commission on Technology and Science.)
Delegate LaRock’s letter to the Governor:
The Honorable Ralph S. Northam
Governor of Virginia
P. O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218
Dear Governor Northam,
I am reaching out to you on a matter of grave concern and utmost urgency; specifically, the need to address widespread apprehensions prompted by speculative and unnecessary comments from two Virginia Members of Congress who suggested that local public officials, including police and sheriffs, should resign or be fired for failure to enforce your firearm proposals, as well as suggesting the possible use of the National Guard to enforce compliance by Virginian citizens.
These congressional comments are of great concern to all Virginians regardless of their opinion on the Second Amendment, the local Sanctuary resolutions or proposed gun legislation. The safety of our citizens and the security of the Virginia National Guard members and Law Enforcement members and their families is of utmost importance.
A constituent of mine and yours from Winchester, Virginia, Michaela Claywell, the wife of an active duty Virginia Guardsman, has alerted me through email correspondence that her family and other families of Virginia Guardsman have been threatened by Facebook posts which appear to condone violence against Guard members and their families. These threats are disturbing the tranquility of the
Claywell family and other families of National Guard service members.
I have spoken with Col. Gary Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent, and was assured that the threatening posts on the Virginia Guard Facebook page are being investigated.
It is my understanding that Michaela Claywell has sent a hard copy of her letter (attached) to you, myself, some members of Congress and state legislators in Virginia imploring elected officials to “Deescalate”
the situation which has precipitated these threats.
The threats are connected to the proposed sweeping legislation related to gun ownership and possession in Virginia and questions and statements regarding what mechanisms and which personnel would be utilized to enforce these proposed laws if they were to pass the legislature and be signed into law by you.
Governor Northam, please allow me to emphasize what I expect you are already observing. There is evidence of unwavering resolve being communicated to us through individual Virginians and through
local governments that an overreach involving Constitutionally-protected Second Amendment rights will be resisted with strong determination.
The matter has become unsettling to Virginians who are unsure how such gun restrictions would be enforced and by whom. Without knowing the ultimate disposition of the legislation, I can only reassure those concerned that it would not benefit the safety and security of our Commonwealth to have State Police or Virginia Guardsmen actively enforce new gun laws, as such a scenario could have the potential to place neighbor against neighbor in possibly violent confrontations, a scenario I hope you and I agree would be totally unacceptable.
Another unintended consequence I have been alerted to, especially with regards to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, is that many thousands of workers’ jobs and security clearances could be in jeopardy if they were to become the target of a Red Flag Order or a gun-related charge for mere possession of firearms, or even minor parts of firearms, which are currently legal in states across the Nation, including in states which have so-called “assault weapons” bans.
It is incumbent upon you and me, as well as all elected officials, to avoid words or actions that unnecessarily increase fear and or the potential for harm to Virginians whose safety and wellbeing we are entrusted to protect.me
For these reasons and many more, I am asking you to act immediately, as requested by the signers of the attached letter, to take public and very visible steps to “Deescalate” this situation by reassuring Virginians, being very clear about your intentions, and to further confirm that there will be no orders made to the National Guard or Law Enforcement to confiscate firearms from Virginians.
I am also asking that you please set up a meeting with Michaela Claywell, as well as the wives of other National Guardsmen or law enforcement officers who have felt threatened, and myself, to discuss the specific actions related to gun legislation which you intend to propose or support.
Thank you for your consideration.
(Signature Dave LaRock)
CC: The Honorable Brian J. Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security
Letter from the National Guard Spouses:
To: Governor Northam, All Senate of Virginia Members, All Virginia House of Delegate Members, All
Congressional Members Representing Virginia Districts
Re: Hate Speech and Criminal Threats Against Virginia Army National Guardsmen and Their Families
Honorable Elected Officials,
We write to you as spouses of Virginia Army National Guardsmen. Some of our husbands have made their entire careers in service to our country and work full-time for the Virginia Army National Guard, and they are away from home on a regular basis. Some of our husbands are traditional guardsmen drilling once a month and several weeks during annual training, and they juggle the responsibilities of civilian and soldier life. Regardless of the time they spend serving their country, these soldiers are patriots who have volunteered to protect their nation and the citizens that inhabit it. Our spouses have deployed to the Middle East (many of them several times); they have supported Virginia’s communities during hurricanes and snowstorms, ushering many to safety and getting patients and doctors to hospitals to receive critically needed care. These soldiers are touted on TV and in social media as heroes deserving of our ultimate respect. How many homecoming stories have you watched evoking emotions of pride and solidarity?
This past week, we have witnessed the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia (and even some not from Virginia) threaten the lives of Virginia Army National Guardsmen and their families over the much-talked- about, yet-to-be-legislated new gun control measures proposed by Governor Northam. On December 12, Virginia Congressional Representative Donald McEachin spoke in the media concerning the Governor’s ability to mobilize the Virginia National Guard to enforce new gun control measures if enacted. These comments sparked a reaction that is shocking and disappointing to us as residents of Virginia. Attached you will find a sampling of the hate speech and criminal threats posted in the comments of Major General Timothy P. Williams’ post on the Virginia National Guard Facebook page. We CANNOT be indifferent to this type of behavior. We CANNOT accept this as “the way our society is these days.” There must be accountability for people who use this type of rhetoric on social media platforms.
According to the American Library Association Website, hate speech is described as, “Generally, however, hate speech is any form of expression through which speakers intend to vilify, humiliate, or incite hatred against a group or a class of persons.” After reading the attached comments, we believe you will agree that this speech is hate speech and not protected free speech. Some might be quick to dismiss many of the comments as originating from “internet heroes” who are bold behind the screen but likely will not act. However, it was not that long ago that hate speech cost a young woman her life in Charlottesville. These situations can spiral out of control in a hurry.
Also, according to § 18.2-60 of the Code of Virginia:
“Threats of death or bodily injury to a person or member of his family; threats of death or bodily injury to persons on school property; threats of death or bodily injury to health care providers; penalty.
A. 1. Any person who knowingly communicates, in a writing, including an electronically transmitted communication producing a visual or electronic message, a threat to kill or do bodily injury to a person, regarding that person or any member of his family, and the threat
Honorable Elected Officials December 19, 2019 Page No. 2
places such person in reasonable apprehension of death or bodily injury to himself or his family member, is guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, any person who violates this subsection with the intent to commit an act of terrorism as defined in § 18.2-46.4 is guilty of a Class 5 felony.”
We have supported our spouses in their unfailing dedication to this nation. We have juggled the responsibilities of mother and father as our spouses deployed and felt the weight of that responsibility every day they are gone. Many of you say that you support our troops. We are making a two-pronged request of showing that support from you. 1. Hold accountable the people that have used hate speech and made criminal threats against our soldiers and our families. 2. Use your media relations teams in a coordinated effort to de-escalate the current situation but also monitor this situation as the 2nd Amendment issue in Virginia progresses. Plan an approach moving forward so that elected officials can effectively respond in the media without shifting public hysteria towards a focused group of people. Please use your collective influence to protect our soldiers and our families. Our children should never be the focus of death threats or hate speech because of politics. Our soldiers have given more than many Virginians could ever appreciate; this treatment is not what they deserve. Pride and solidarity are not only for “media-worthy” moments, it is what we are asking of you now. We thank you for your time and future work on this issue.
Cheryl Williams, Wife of Major General Timothy Williams Porter Kobernik, Wife of Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Kobernik Bethany Price, Wife of Major Brandon Price Michaela Claywell, Wife of First Sergeant Denver Claywell Jessica Turner, Wife of Sergeant First Class Brandon Turner Sarah Springer, Wife of Sergeant First Class Wayne Springer Ashley Bosserman, Wife of Sergeant First Class Paul Bosserman Bethany Jesse, Wife of Former Guardsman Sergeant Eric Jessee
Distribution List Exhibits of Hate Speech and Criminal Threats