Last Saturday I joined dozens of other people at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia in protest of a recently-passed rule banning open carry of rifles and handguns in the viewing gallery.

Prior to the rally, the Washington State Patrol had warned that unlike the “I Will Not Comply Rally,” they would arrest those who attempted to violate this rule – which itself violates Section 24 of our State Constitution saying our right to bear arms shall not be impaired.

Undeterred by these threats, many protesters made it clear weeks before the rally they would defy this rule, even if it meant getting arrested. A bail fund was set up to pay for those who were willing to engage in civil disobedience of an illegal law and endure arrest.

Right before Saturday, however, we learned that the gallery doors, which are normally open on the weekends, had been locked in anticipation of our arrival.

While we were ultimately unable to get into the gallery, a list of grievances was read outside the building and then later posted on the gallery door.

As expected, many media outlets and commentators online mocked us for our inability to get inside the gallery. Yet they refuse to acknowledge that it was the state that backed down, not us. It would have been easy for WSP to allow armed protesters to enter and then try to arrest them all. There are, no doubt, thousands of Washingtonians who would have cheered them for doing it and ridiculed all arrested as lunatics and social misfits.

Instead, they locked the doors. They were unwilling to accept the political consequences for enforcing the rule (that there were two state representatives among the protesters might have also impacted their decision).

They also knew protesters were not bluffing when they swore they would violate it even if it resulted in their arrest.

If America wants to bring about change, particularly with unconstitutional federal gun laws, we need more people with this devotion to liberty.

In our efforts to defy unconstitutional federal gun laws, we are pushing for states to pass anti-commandeering legislation that would deprive the feds of vital state resources. While such bills are designed to make enforcement extremely arduous, at the same time, these laws do not prevent the federal government from attempting to arrest people on their own.

If this happens, there are some who believe unless a substantial number of people stand together in opposition so there is no risk of arrest, compliance with these federal laws is necessary. This argument infers that being arrested is not worth it, that people can do no good for the liberty movement in jail.

No one is earnest to end up in a jail cell, or to call on others to commit actions that will send them there. Intentionally violating laws in the foreknowledge that it will result in an arrest and possible conviction is not something to be taken lightly.

But the idea that people cannot make an impact on freedom behind bars is not true. We are witnessing this with the mass noncompliance of the federal drug laws in states that allow medical marijuana even when the feds continue to enforce their laws. Over 335 people have been charged with federal crimes related to medical marijuana in those states.

One might think the severity for violating drug laws pales compared to federal gun laws violations, but the truth is that many have been handed down onerous sentences.

One example is Dale Schafer, a hemophiliac currently serving five years along with his wife Mollie Fry, a cancer patient. In Michigan, a kidney and pancreas transplant patient is serving a 10 year sentence for growing medical marijuana.

It is worth noting that, according to a survey of court records by Cal NORML, not a single pardon or clemency petition has been granted to a medical marijuana defendant by President Obama, who said in 2008 he wouldn’t use the DOJ to circumvent state laws on marijuana.

These people are suffering not because they committed a crime, but because they defied unconstitutional violations of their rights by the feds.

Yet, they do not suffer in vain. Their stories help bring attention to the increasing unpopularity of the War on Drugs. As more and more similar stories are published, the more public opinion will sway towards the decriminalization of marijuana. They also serve as examples to others and embolden them to violate these laws, as well.

If some Americans are willing to suffer in prison over the growing and consumption of a plant, gun owners should have the courage to suffer in a likewise manner over their right to keep and bear arms.

When people quote Thomas Jefferson’s famous remark that the Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, they tend to think of actual battlefields and revolution.

Often, however, the “blood of patriots” is metaphorical, and it is shed in a prison rather than the battlefield.

TJ Martinell

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