[1/21/20] – Richmond Rally

On Monday January 20th, 2020, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, thousands of gun rights advocates, white nationalists, and other extremist groups gathered at their Capital building to voice their views about the government. In response, he City of Richmond, Virginia declared a state of emergency. Some attendees are expected to be members of a white nationalist group The Base. Groups arrived early Monday morning to show opposition to a set of new gun laws for the state. Many arrived unarmed, many more arrived armed, some wearing camouflage and helmets. Counter protests were planned but called off due to the increased threat of violent outburst if the two groups were to collide. Three years after the tragedy of Charlottesville, Virginia, police, politicians and community members are understandably concerned about potential violence. At a time when division in society is so stark, this example provides a glimpse into the caverns that divide American groups. The focus of this week’s Lecture Spark is group dynamics. Of note, we explore this through the perspective of Tönnies, the concept of deviance, and the theoretical lens of structural-functionalism on the issue of free speech.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Richmond Rally

Learning Objectives

LO1: Understand how one’s perception of place within community can influence their attitudes towards the Richmond anti-gun law rally.

LO2: Explain why relativity of deviance is important to understand the societal reaction to the Richmond anti-gun law rally.

LO3: Describe how the process of socialization inculcates one with supportive and non-supportive ideas relative to gun ownership.


FBI arrests three suspected white supremacists ahead of gun rights rally in Virginia

The arrest of three alleged white supremacists is increasing concerns ahead of a planned gun rights rally in Virginia’s capital. Investigators said that the men were planning to attend the event. CBS News chief Justice and Homeland Security correspondent Jeff Pegues joined “CBSN AM” from Richmond, Virginia, to discuss.

Tight security for Virginia gun rights rally

Authorities in Virginia are on high alert ahead of a gun rights rally at the state capitol in Richmond today. Organizers anticipate thousands of people will protest against Democrats’ efforts to pass gun control legislation. CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion joined CBSN from Richmond to discuss how local law enforcement and the FBI are taking added precautions.

Thousands of gun rights advocates attend pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia

Thousands of gun-rights advocates kicked off a gun-rights rally in Richmond, Virginia, amid heavy security as authorities look to prevent the kind of violence that took place in nearby Charlottesville three years ago.

Discussion Questions

How might Tönnies concepts of “gemeinschaft” and “gesellschaft” be used to explain this situation? Which of these two types of community would most align with those supporting of gun rights and those supporting gun laws, and why? How might a sense of shared ideology among groups influence their level of participation in the Richmond anti-gun law rally?

Why might white supremacists and other extremists use the issue of gun rights as an avenue to advance their ideologies? How might the involvement of these groups influence reactions to the rally, and gun rights more broadly?

Thinking about this issue from a relativity of deviance stance, how might race influence the reactions of media and community members to the rally? For example, how might this gathering of pro-gun rights supporters be viewed differently if most of the protesters were Black or Latino?

From a functionalist perspective, what is the role of government in controlling anti-government demonstrations in America? To what degree should the government surveil these organizations? Why might some organizations be given more leniency than others? Explain. When do constitutional rights supersede public safety, and for whom?

Which of the four major agents of socialization – family, peers, education, media – contribute most mightily to one’s attitudes towards gun ownership? Describe an environment necessary to re-socialize both to the other’s ideas. What messages would be most necessary? Who would need to communicate them, and why?


Ferdinand Tönnies’ concept of _______ is used to describe a modern society comprised of more informal social ties whereas _______ is used to describe a more connected community.
a. Gemeinschaft; Gesellschaft
b. Gesellschaft; Gemeinschaft
c. Wesenwille; Kürwille
d. Kürwille; Wesenwille

Which of the following statements best describes the position of functionalists on deviance?
a. Deviance provides stability in society by offering people an opportunity to align with others of their shared interest in opposition of it.
b. Deviance creates opportunities for inequality that benefit male gun owners over female gun owners.
c. Deviance is best understood through the lens of the lived experience of the individual committing the deviant act.
d. Deviant acts are most appealing to those who stand to benefit the most from engaging in the act itself.

The lifelong process of _______ provides us with messages and ideas of what is and what is not acceptable attitudes and behaviors in society.
a. Enculturation
b. Assimilation
c. Saturation
d. Socialization

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/JakeOlimb

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