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Ban open carry

9/22/2017, 11:13 p.m.

Whew!

That was our reaction last Saturday after the neo-Confederate rally on Monument Avenue came to a close without the tumult, fury, bloodshed and death that marked August events in Charlottesville.

The sorry group CSA II: The New Confederate States of America got more — or perhaps less — than it bargained for when it rolled into Richmond for the rally it announced and held without a permit. 

They came armed with weapons — leader Thomas Crompton spent the day with a semiautomatic weapon on his shoulder — and empty arguments of heritage not hate only to find they were sorely outnumbered by police in riot gear, barricades and hundreds, if not thousands, of people calling for love and justice, not hate.

In the end, the gun-toting neo-Confederates went back to Tennessee and Florida, and their local supporters called it a day. There was no violence, no bloodshed and only seven arrests, four of which were counterprotesters charged with wearing bandanas or masks.

We credit Chief Alfred Durham and Mayor Levar M. Stoney for executing a well-designed plan that both contained the protests physically and deterred violence.

We also credit the scores of counterprotesters who kept their wits about them as they voiced their opinions to the ragtag remnants of the Confederacy trying to hold onto the public statues honoring their vanquished traitors.

 And we credit the scores of Richmonders who stayed away from the potentially perilous Monument Avenue site, where statues of Confederates Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Matthew Fontaine Maury will continue to be magnets for racists and extremists who want to glorify hatred and the oppressive past.

Until the statues come down, Richmond will continue to draw neo-Confederate, white supremacist sympathizers who will turn the city upside down simply because they want to march with their Confederate flags and their guns.

The taxpayers now are stuck with the bill of defending ourselves from their needless, mindless show of allegiance to a wretched past. 

While the city has not yet tallied the figures, the cost of police presence from several departments and jurisdictions, fencing to protect the publicly owned monuments and the property of residents along Monument Avenue, and overtime to get ready for the event surely will cost in the thousands. That is money that would have been better spent on greater needs in the city, such as fixing dilapidated school buildings, funding job training workshops or after-school programs at public libraries or plugging potholes. 

What responsibility do these neo-Confederates have in bearing the cost for their rally? Should we not require a down payment from them when they surely return? 

While many people believe Richmond is a city on a hill, sparkling as a shining example for others, such rallies only serve to tarnish our reputation and result in Richmond being stricken from the list of consideration by companies like Amazon seeking to grow or relocate their employees.

We also are extremely troubled by Virginia’s open carry law that allows people to carry firearms almost wherever and whenever they want.