September 11, 2017-
The “summer of hate” reached its apogee in Charlottesville, Virginia, when police didn’t separate clashing white nationalist demonstratorsand anti-racist counter-protesters for fear of confronting openly carrying militia members, who showed up to ensure that “free speech” rights were guaranteed. The militia members weren’t the only ones armed: At least one “Unite The Right” marcher, a Ku Klux Klan member from Maryland named Richard Preston, carried a holstered handgun, which he brandished and then fired toward a counter-protester.
There was nothing the town of Charlottesville could do to prevent the armed paramilitary groups from toting firearms through the streets. Open carry is legal in Virginia; there is no law on the books prohibiting guns at protests; and a state preemption law forbids cities from making their own firearms regulations. Most cities in the U.S. are in the same position as Charlottesville: powerless to prevent armed groups from participating in potentially volatile political protests and demonstrations, according to separate analyses by attorneys at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety (a donor to The Trace).