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Dueling Banjos

Tim Craig

Hundreds of activists on both sides of the gun control debate crammed into the General Assembly's office building Monday to lobby for or against measures addressing the issue.

Many of the gun rights activists were armed, which is legal under Virginia's concealed weapons law. The spectacle of armed men and women trolling the halls of the General Assembly makes some lawmakers nervous, especially those who represent areas of the state that generally support gun control.

John Pierce, cofounder of Open, said he and other activists got into the same elevator as Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) at one point on Monday.

According to Pierce, Saslaw said "I see we're debating a gun bill. Half of the cast of 'Deliverance' is in town," a reference to the 1972 movie about a group of friends who survive a canoe trip in rural Georgia.

In an interview today, Saslaw didn't deny he made the remark. But he added, "How do they know I was referring to them and not the other side? I never said anything other than we must be debating the gun bill. I never said which side. Some of those people must have one hell of an inferiority complex."

By Tim Craig  |  January 24, 2008; 11:55 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2008 , Tim Craig  
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Just because some of us Americans, many veterans, believe in our right to bear arms it does not make us a bunch of stupid, 6 fingered, in-bred banjo pickers. Your statement of denying what you really meant, well now that was "stupid" Saslaw...

Posted by: lou | January 24, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Lou, what does being a veteran have to do with supporting the 2nd Amendment?

I'm a vet and I support the "well regulated militia" interpretation of the Amendment.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

anonymous in-bred

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 3:44 PM | Report abuse

In my mind this situation has gone beyond riduculous. If the 'opposition' to this legistlation claims they support the existing gun laws then then they moral have to support this proposed law since the existing 'loophole' flies in the face of the existing law's intended purpose. No one is trying to take away anybody's guns. This is just trying to keep them out of the hands of those particularly high risk people. You could even reason it as a way to keep guns out of terrorists or illegal immigrants hands as well.

Posted by: Paul | January 24, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

The strict constructionist argument over the 2nd amendment collapsed when the first state added law (above and beyond federal law) that restricted unfettered trade in firearms. Thus what are we left with ? A 220-some year -old document written by men who could not have conceived of the deadly permutations of modern "arms". If I were a strict constructionist I could easily argue that my right to bear nuclear arms can not be infringed. It's long past time to update the text...or admit that we believe the Constitution is a holy scripture written in stone. God help us then, indeed.

Posted by: L'emp | January 24, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

L'emp, we're gonna find out soon. The Supreme Court will let us know one way or the other.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm regularly at our General Assembly, working on a number of freedom-related issues, and I've worked with Senator Saslaw. I disagree with him on this issue, but I have to defend him in general. Granted that he put his foot in his mouth here, and is getting a well-deserved "negative reinforcement", in general he's very good, and very politically savvy as well. Cut the man a break -- we all have blind spots.

Posted by: Roy | January 25, 2008 1:36 AM | Report abuse

The intent of the law to close the (non-existent) 'gun show loophole' was very obviously a first step towards mandating that all sales of firearms by private sellers be subject to background checks.

It is difficult to comprehend the complete obliviousness of those who can't grasp the fact that a gangsta' selling a stolen pistol to another gangsta' ain't going to run a NICS background check on his buddy.

As for Saslaw, his contempt for law-abiding gun owners is well-known among the pro-gun rights observers at the Virginia General Assembly. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out he wasn't referring to the hand-wringing hysterics who were there to pass useless legislation so they could 'feel' like they were 'doing SOMETHING'.

Posted by: Susan | January 25, 2008 2:10 AM | Report abuse

He's a lying weasel, trying to wriggle and spin his way out of what he said. Similar to Clinton's "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is." statement.

Posted by: Clark | January 25, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Ok, so first it was the gun owners, now he's calling the Virginia Tech Hokies 'half the cast of Deliverance'?

What a despicable human being.

Posted by: Mr. Y | January 25, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Instead of trying to argue in a reasonable manner, this man makes ad hominem attacks on Virginia citizens, whom he is supposed to be representing. And he is arrogant enough to do it in a crowded public elevator in a building packed with self-defense activists. Imagine what he says about his fellow citizens when he thinks he has the building to himself and his cronies.

Posted by: Tomahawk | January 25, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Saslaw sure is a far cry from the public servant that I want in Richmond. Disagreement is natural for those that make law. Public insult shows just how ignorant this pol is.

Posted by: Commonwealth citizen | January 25, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

The people that are posting in favor of gun control must be members of cfr or are in favor of the new world order where will take American workers to a 3rd world stander and bring this free country to a slave camp together with Canada and Mexico on the New American Union. It enough of the patriotic act that's is every but patriotic we need to wake up for this tyranny from the World Bank that owns every ting including the Federal Reserve and get way from the media mind control

Posted by: Ricardo | January 25, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

After these irresponsible and insensitive comments about law abiding and upstanding citizens of virginia - I believe Saslaw will be the one sqealing - He's #?%@*'ed.

Posted by: Brian | January 25, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Senator Saslaw demonstrates not only his bias towards firearms owners by his comment, but also his lack graciousness for voters visiting Richmond. I would like to think it very unbecoming of a Virginia State Legislator, but it is all too typical of so called liberal lawmakers today!

Posted by: Tom McGinley | January 25, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Notwithstanding Saslaw's cute non-answer about who he was referring to in his comment - I quite sure that what ever constituency he was refering to would be rather upset by being compared to ignorant, inbred, hygenically challenged homosexual rapists.

My advise - issue a heartfelt apology...

Posted by: Brian | January 25, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Actually I have a lot of so called redneck relatives as Sen. Saslaw likes to refer to us as. I am very proud of them as they are kind and the type of people who will pull over and help you out on the side of the road. Sen Saslaw and Marsh should be ashamed of how they allowed the fascist anti gunners to constantly heckle and disrupt speakers they didn't agree with at the hearing or the fact that Capitol PD would allow in the Fascists but not the other groups such as VCDL.

Posted by: Jim | January 25, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

To Ricardo,

Please refrain from posting until you learn to spell and some have some sense of grammar.

A coherent argument may help as well!

Posted by: Brian | January 25, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I don't think that tact is Saslaw's strong suit, but, if you're not the butt of his jokes, he's funny as heck.

Posted by: Fairfax | January 25, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Lack of decorum, belittling, interrupting, heckling, offensive characterizations, etc sound far more like the product of an inferiority complexes than does the well mannered presence of the second-amendment supporters who sat quietly and courteously through the testimony of those who would erode our rights and did not respond in-kind to the insults of a Senator who supports every anti-gun bill that comes his way.

Posted by: Mountain man & proud of it | January 25, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

What is there about "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" that is so difficult to understand. The amendment does not say you may bear arms only if you are part of the Militia.

How is the second amendment so different from the first?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Why do we not have laws restricting religions, the right to speak and assemble, and the right to publish newspapers?
Why not a requirement for newspaper editors to pass a background check and to pass a literacy test?

Posted by: Ted | January 25, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I got to thinking about Saslaw's statement, "How do they know I was referring to them and not the other side?"

Could it be that he was intending his offensive characterization to disparage the busload of citizens who came up from Virginia Tech. So, I checked the database for the Senate. Seems that Saslaw is a University of Maryland graduate.

Hum? Given the growing rivalry between these two ACC schools, he might have been taking a shot at the VT folk. If so, I think he owes everyone an explanation. Whom was he trying to offend?

By the way, as a VT grad, the son of a VT grad, and the father of a third generation VT grad, I am equally offended as I was when I assumed he intended disparaging second amendment rights supporters.

Posted by: Mountain man & proud of it | January 25, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Wow! A mountain out of a molehill.

Somebody sent out the e-mail call to every Commonwealth village and holler?

Uh, Ted, try to listen to the 2nd Amendment arguments as they are presented to the Supreme Court in the upcoming case. You just may learn that both sides, repeat both sides, have reasonable well thought out historical precedent positions which are not based on knee-jerk emotional reactions or biased propaganda.

Trying to compare the purposes of the 1st Amendment to those of the 2nd just valdiates the old Apples vs. Oranges aphorism.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I just called his office at (804) 698-7535 - I asked for clarification as to which group he was referring to.

I spoke to a staffer, Donald, who told me he would see if he could get an answer for me and call me back.

Posted by: Bill | January 25, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I don't care about "Deliverance" or "Hillbillies" or whatever, but I saw a group of these Virginia gun activists taunt and laugh at family members of the Virginia Tech victims and other gun violence survivors at a silent vigil on the State Capitol grounds that day, and it was one of the most disgusting and sad things I've ever seen in my life. It's absolutely unbelievable that these same people would be questioning anybody else's integrity after that.

Posted by: Jack | January 25, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse


I saw exactly the opposite both in the hearings and on the grounds.

Had there been what you suggest, it would have been all over the news -- given the extensive media coverage.

In fact, some of the papers did point out that the pro-gun-control contingent interrupted and mocked the testimony with which they disagreed. I have seen no neutral party document what you contend you saw or document that we acted in any such manner.

Posted by: Mountain man & proud of it | January 25, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Mountain man, so you're saying that if you don't see it or if it isn't reported by the media, it didn't happen.

Otherwise you're saying that Jack is a liar.

Did it occur to you that there are extremists on both sides of the issue who may do things the rest of us consider outrageous if no reporters are present?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

You know what he meant. He is rude, crude, and a real jerk. Just watch him at a public meeting or at a Committee meeting. He doesn't pay attention, continuously talks to the people Senators around him (causing their attention to be broken), and to any aids who come around.

He really needs to be replaced in the worst sort of way.

Posted by: Ward | January 25, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Whoever posted at 5:47 PM


No way to prove a negative.

Not calling anyone a liar.

However, I did observing that there was heavy media coverage at the demonstration on the State Capitol grounds that day.

If Jack considers the very presents of those with whom he disagrees to be a taunt, he has that right. I heard a number of the anti-gun folk voice that opinion. I heard them try to get the police to clear the grounds of those who didn't agree with their position, also.

Is it OK for the anti-gun folk to jeer speakers during testimony, yet it is outrageous for those who disagree with them to wear counterpoint buttons and signs at a public demonstration?

I suppose some of the extremists to whom you referred could believe that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly should be limited to only those with whom they agree. Again, I can't prove that someone on my side might not feel that way. However, I have never met them, if they exist.

As for me, I have and will defend those rights for the other side, as well as those with whom I agree. Over the last century, my father, myself, my son and my step-grandson have put ourselves in harms way to defend this great country and our freedoms -- including freedom of speech and assembly for those with whom I don't agree.

Posted by: Mountain man & proud of it | January 25, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Dear Senator Saslaw:

I have read several accounts of your observation that since the legislature was debating a gun bill, "half the cast of Deliverance is in town." I know that you have taken some criticism for your remark, but I think that you were right on the mark.

It is quite clear that the gun owners are represented by the group of friends going down river in canoes, taking responsibility for their own safety, and protecting each other against the close-minded locals who are unrealistically fighting the changes taking place in their environment.

I am surprised that you saw that, but congratulate you on your pithy (sorry, I have a bit of a lisp) observation.


Posted by: Max | January 25, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Just wait until re election time, Piercie

Posted by: C4 | January 26, 2008 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Saslaw needs to resign.

Posted by: Brian Kirwin | January 26, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

As Chinese American I feel proud to be considered to be part of the "half the cast of Deliverance" that believes in individual responsibility and constitutional recognized rights.

Posted by: Well | January 26, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

As a Jewess in the US, I would like to point out that America wasn't won with a registered gun. All REAL Americans put our 2nd Amendment FIRST !! Criminals are not stopped by talk, but by FIREARMS.

Posted by: Wendy Weinbaum | January 26, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

It really doesn't matter to which group this tactless,somewhat dim-witted state senator was referring. Either way,he has made his contempt for the right of the people to present their views to the legislature pretty clear. If he had any integrity,he'd resign. If he had any compassion,he'd apologize and actually,for the first time,listen to what the citizens of the state are saying rather than insulting them. If he has any political future,he's fooled his constituents. Maybe they're the ones he was referring to.

Posted by: terry albertson | January 26, 2008 9:59 PM | Report abuse

"You could even reason it as a way to keep guns out of terrorists or illegal immigrants hands as well."

Oh yes, because we all know that terrorists intent on committing mass murder will be stopped cold by gun laws. Real smart there Jethro.

Posted by: John | January 27, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Even though I am a gun owner, and a firm defender of the second amendment, I don't see this as an RKBA incident; it doesn't matter which side he was referring to. Both sides are his constituents, and both sides should be offended that he would (effectively publically) refer to anyone he works for in such a manner.

Posted by: SG | January 28, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

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