Covington VA --(Ammoland.com)- On Tuesday August 5th 2014, just a few hours before the start of National Night Out, the Target in Stafford called and did a flipflop, denying Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) a booth.
On Wednesday, as I was writing up an alert for us to bombard the Stafford Target with emails and phone calls, the Virginia Citizens Defense League phone rang – it was from Target corporate and everything changed.
I was told by the corporate representative that the Stafford County Sheriff, Charles E. Jett, asked the Stafford Target to deny Virginia Citizens Defense League a table at last night’s National Night Out event, ban open carry, and prohibit Virginia Citizens Defense League handing out any materials, even if unsolicited!
I had no idea that Sheriff Jett was anti-gun, would pressure Target to enforce his personal biases against the 1st and 2nd Amendments, would have his representative lie to me by saying the ban was Target’s idea, and let Target take the heat from gun owners for his scheme.
This is the same Sheriff Jett who put his left hand on a bible, put his right hand in the air, and swore an oath to uphold the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions and to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
When I had spoken to Sgt. English with the Stafford Sheriff’s Department initially about VCDL having a booth, Sgt. English first said VCDL could not have a booth because we were a “political organization.” I explained to him why that statement is simply not correct. I mailed him the materials we would be handing out and called him back a week or so later.
He said the booth was still denied because if he gave VCDL a booth, then he’d have to give the “other side” a booth, and a gun debate wasn’t what this event was all about. I told him we could care less if he gives the other side a booth. We would be there to provide our materials to anyone that wanted them and that’s all we would do.
A few days later, Sgt. English called and said Virginia Citizens Defense League could have a booth, but no one was to open carry at the booth and we could only handout materials from the booth. I said we would be fine with only providing materials from the booth. When I said that I was not about to tell our members that they could not open carry if they wanted to, I was told the booth offer was withdrawn.
All this struck me as odd, as Sgt. English didn’t say anything about Target having input on any of these decisions. In fact, Sgt. English said the Sheriff was the one who put this event together, implying that the Sheriff made the decisions on vendors.
This Monday, the day before the event, I called the Stafford Target directly and got the go ahead for a booth from them as long as we did not actively solicit people to take stickers or handouts. Carry was not an issue. I put out a call for volunteers and about ten gun owners stepped forward.
Tuesday afternoon, the day of the event, I got a call from the Target in Stafford.
This time the Target representative who had given permission for the booth the day before said that VCDL couldn’t have a booth, members couldn’t open carry, and even if we were just walking around we couldn’t make stickers or other materials available to attendees!
I called Target’s headquarters to verify what seemed like a contradiction in their policies and the representative said the ban was just for that particular event, and not a general policy.
She couldn’t see it, but my eyebrows went up. Very, very interesting.
Because of this last minute flip-flop by Target, there really wasn’t anyway to contact those who were set to come help with a now non-existent booth.
Board member Bruce Jackson and I put our heads together and decided that VCDL would show up at the event anyway, with each person plastered with GSL stickers and an “Ask me about VCDL.ORG” button and walk amongst the crowd. Bruce also had a great idea to carry a still-sealed roll of GSL stickers in his hand.
As people would approach us to get a sticker or to ask about VCDL, we would tell them that Target had selected gun owners for “special treatment,” denying us a table and also denying us the ability to simply hand out requested materials, like the GSL stickers.
The reaction from everyone was consistent: a wide-eyed, jaw-dropping, “WHAT?!”
Looking around the event, they had the Sheriff’s department showing off their paramilitary toys, various local businesses with booths, and tons of solicitation going on. Interesting, because when we had been approved for a booth initially I was told that soliciting was absolutely not acceptable and the ‘no soliciting’ rule applied to ALL vendors. If VCDL were to solicit, we’d be kicked out. A textbook example of a double-standard.
Bruce and I told the VCDL volunteers last night that our gut instinct was that the Sheriff’s hands were dirty in all of this, but we had no proof of that.
At least not until the phone call from Target Corporate.
ACTION ITEM: Email Sheriff Jett and *politely* let him know that asking Target to both ban open carry and to deny VCDL a booth at National Night Out is unacceptable.
Suggested subject: Your actions regarding National Night Out
Dear Sheriff Jett,
I am very disappointed in your actions concerning National Night Out on Tuesday.
It has come to my attention that you asked the Target in Stafford to both ban open carry and to prohibit VCDL from having a booth or handing out any literature at National Night Out on Tuesday. You then told VCDL that the open carry ban was Target’s policy.
You swore an oath to uphold both the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions and to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth. Your actions against the 1st and 2nd Amendment Rights of Virginia’s gun owners belie that oath and Target was about to take the heat for what was your unethical request to them.
You owe VCDL and gun owners in Stafford County a public apology! In addition, you should ensure that this does not happen again.
Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL). VCDL is an all-volunteer, non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human rights of all Virginians. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a fundamental human right. Visit: www.vcdl.org