A few weeks ago, we celebrated my birthday by attending the grand opening of Arlington’s newest gun shop – NoVA Armory. It is a cute shop close to our apartment in the Lyon Park neighborhood of Arlington.
And because it’s Arlington, the store’s opening wasn’t without the sturm and drang normally expected from the usual leftist gun grabbers that infest this part of the world. The residents protested, and state legislators did what they normally do in these situations – they attempted to use their elected positions to pressure and bully the store and its landlord into closing the shop down.
I have detailed Virginia State Senator Barbara Favola’s and other elected local and state officials’ underhanded tactics in destroying small businesses here. Emails obtained by the blog Bearing Drift reveal that Favola and other Democrats conspired to destroy the business of a local Virginia business owner and military veteran, merely because they did not like having a gun shop in the area.
Delegate Kathleen Murphy, McLean Democrat, wrote an email to state Sen. Barbara Favola, Arlington Democrat, seeking help in shutting down the gun store. Ms. Favola was instrumental in organizing opposition to Mr. Gates’ shop in Arlington.
“Basically, we convinced the land owner that his business tenants would lose business,” Ms. Favola told Ms. Murphy in a reply. “In other words, moving a gun shop to a small cluster of shops in the middle of a neighborhood was bad for business.
“The argument has to be about supporting small businesses,” Ms. Favola wrote in her email. “The ‘we’ versus ‘they’ argument is winnable with the NRA.”
Ms. Murphy forwarded that email Sept. 25 to other Democrats in her district, including Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, who is up for re-election Tuesday, saying, “Lets do it.”
They attempted the same tactics with NoVA Armory, but it didn’t quite pan out the way they’d hoped. After protests, intimidation, and even a mailed death threat against store owner Dennis Pratte’s teenage daughter, it got too much, and the company that owns NoVA Armory filed suit against the so-called “protesters,” who colluded to destroy Pratte and his family’s livelihood, and against the elected public officials who used their office and position to intimidate and bully the family out of their business.
The suit says that, first, Howell, Favola, Levine, and Hope conspired between one another to destroy Pratte’s business. They are elected officials. They maliciously acted to defame Pratte and destroy the reputation of his business in an effort to prevent it from opening. These elected public officials discussed strategy about how to best do so on social media, and sent a letter to the store’s landlord – on official government stationery – trying to pressure her into abandoning the lease. That’s right. Elected public officials tried to use their official offices and authority to pressure a landlord to sever a relationship with a tenant! Worse yet, they attempted to malign and defend Pratte and his business by claiming that he had opened his business “in order to conduct criminal activities, namely conveyance of firearms to persons ineligible to be in possession thereof and to facilitate violent crime.”
Talk about your abuse of power!
Abuse of power, indeed.
What I noticed after the message about the lawsuit spread is that those named in the legal action began to claim victimhood – as if they were the ones maligned, as if they were the ones whose rights were violated, and as if they were the ones abused.
One of the people named in the suit, an ignorant, pathetic liar named Ryan Albert, published a whiny editorial in the Washington Post a few days ago, claiming his rights are being violated by the suit, and asserting that he is merely being sued for expressing his (uninformed and ignorant) opinion in public.
I fisked this nonsense here, but the basic message is the following:
Your rights stop where others rights begin, Ryan. Your right to speak freely does not include libel. It does not include defamation. It does not include threats and intimidation. I’m going to quote attorney Daniel Hawes here, so you can better understand what this lawsuit references.
Simply put, free speech begins and ends with speech. When you take active steps to put someone out of business, that’s a crime in Virginia, even if you do it mainly by the use of words. That goes beyond “free speech”. If I can make an analogy, the fact that, in Virginia, I’ve got a perfect right to strap on a gun and walk around in public with it doesn’t give me the right to pull it out and shoot someone I don’t like. There is a point at which the privileged conduct stops and wrongful action begins. These people are not “random protesters” – they’re not protesters at all – they’re people who have communicated among themselves to effect an unlawful purpose using unlawful means. NoVa Armory is not a governmental agency, and a letter to its landlord is not “petitioning the government for a redress of grievances”. Trying to shut down that business is not an exercise in free speech.
The unlawful acts include defamation, calling NoVa Armory’s manager “gun-slinger Denny” and accusing him of being a terrorist, a liar, and a person who would sell guns to “those people” who live on the other side of the Anacostia river thereby promoting an illegal “black” market in guns and drugs. But it’s not a suit for defamation, it’s a suit for unlawfully conspiring to injure NoVa Armory in its trade or business in violation of Va. Code sections 18.2-499 and 18.2-500.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Delegate who led this disgusting battle and abused his public office to do so, Delegate Mark Levine, has been dutifully deleting any and all posts on his social media page that were critical of his actions. And believe me, before he went on his censorship spree, the negative comments were voluminous, thanks to Ted Nugent’s help in spreading the message.
It seems the bullies don’t like it when the victims fight back. We need to do that more often, and support those who do.