Gun control organizations Everytown For Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action pointed to Virginia’s open carry laws as a core issue at the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday despite no gunshots being fired.
“The complications of such policies are on display today in Charlottesville as white supremacists openly carry loaded guns. Not only does this make the job of law enforcement more difficult by blurring the lines of lawful gun owners and those intent on doing harm, but it also drives intimidation and fear,” Everytown said in a statement.
The statement goes on to compare events that happened in Charlottesville, which involved no gunfire, to the racially motivated mass shooting at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.
“Previous racially motivated shootings like the mass shooting at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina shows that this is not merely hypothetical. As hate crimes also appear to be on the rise, it remains far too easy for hateful people – even those convicted of certain hate crimes – to obtain guns. Under federal law, many hate crime convictions do not currently make someone ineligible for gun ownership,” the Everytown statement said.
Everytown added, “With public attention on what is happening in Charlottesville, it’s important to understand the troubling reality of open-carry and what happens when guns fall into hate-filled hands. Background information is below, as well as media availability for organization leaders and gun violence survivors.”
The US Concealed Carry Association, however, accused Everytown for “exploiting a tragedy for their own political purposes.” In a statement to TheDC USCC said:
“Opponents of the Second Amendment never miss an opportunity to exploit a tragedy for their own political purposes and it’s frankly shameful,” said Tim Schmidt, President & Founder of the United States Concealed Carry Association. “The events in Charlottesville this weekend were deeply troubling but stripping law-abiding Americans of their Constitutional freedoms is not the answer. We hope that the groups blaming concealed carry and open carry laws on this tragedy have the decency to retract their statements and apologize for passing the blame on to those who believe in our God-given rights to protect ourselves from those who wish do us harm.”
Three people were killed and 35 injured in relation to the Charlottesville demonstrations that focused on the town’s planned removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue.
One woman was killed and at least 19 injured when man, 20-year old Ohio resident Alex Fields, plowed his car through a crowd of protesters. Fields was taken into custody and charged with criminal homicide.
Two Virginia State troopers in a helicopter who were reportedly surveilling events on the ground were later killed when the chopper crashed outside the city.
Saturday night U.S. officials for the Western District of Virginia and the Richmond field office of the FBI declared that they have opened a civil rights investigation into situation surrounding the deadly car attack.
In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle launched an investigation and will have the full support of the Justice Department.
“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Sessions said. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”