A Virginia Republican chair brought a shotgun to a gun control advocate’s house, claiming when ‘the ballot box’ doesn’t work ‘the cartridge box’ does

Brandon Howard, chair of the Hopewell, Virginia, Republican Party, standing outside Delegate Mark Levine's home on Saturday, February 15.

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Brandon Howard, chair of the Hopewell, Virginia, Republican Party, standing outside Delegate Mark Levine’s home on Saturday, February 15.
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  • Local Virginia GOP leader Brandon Howard brought weapons to the home of Delegate Mark Levine, a state legislator whose gun-control bill recently passed in the state’s House of Delegates.
  • Howard, who is also a founder of the Right to Bear Arms Virginia, told Insider that owning guns is a God-given right – a right he would defend using all means necessary.
  • “He’s made me more determined,” Levine said of Howard, adding that he would “press charges” against him.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Just days after Virginia passed a bill seeking to expand the definition of assault firearms and band the manufacturing and sale of assault firearms, a local GOP member took up arms against it, bringing two semi-automatic weapons to the house of the Democrat leading the gun-control effort.

Delegate Mark Levine, a Democrat in the Virginia House of Delegates, peered out his window Saturday to find Brandon Howard toting a 12-gauge shotgun and a handgun on the street.

Brandon Howard standing outside Mark Levine's home.

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Brandon Howard standing outside Mark Levine’s home.
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Mark Levine

Howard, chair of the Republican Party in Hopewell, Virginia, told Insider his decision to bring weapons to Levine’s house was a matter of defending his “God-given rights.”

“We are given unalienable rights by our creator and those rights were guaranteed in the Constitution,” he said in a phone interview with Insider.

On the day of the “protest,” as Howard described it, he published a Facebook video announcing Levine’s address. “We know where you live,” he said.

“Armed citizens of the commonwealth are going to come to your house, to your doorstep,” said Howard, who is also the founder of Right to Bear Arms Virginia, a gun-rights organization.

Early this year, Levine introduced House Bill 961, which would bar the sale and transport of “assault firearms, certain firearm magazines, silencers, and trigger activators.” It would also make it illegal to manufacture or import the weaponry systems. The legislation passed by a slim margin, 51 in favor to 48 against.

Howard’s armed demonstration represents a threat to entire communities and even democratic governance, Levine told Insider.

“It’s broader than just me. It relates to my community and every elected official in Virginia,” he said. “If people can get us to feel that we will change our minds by coming to our houses with loaded guns, that’s a threat to democracy itself.”

Howard invoked the founding document of American democracy, the Constitution, to defend his own position: that the citizenry can and should use weapons against “tyrannical” gun-control advocates if all else fails.

“My liberty is being stripped from me without due process,” he said. “My property is being stripped from me without due process.”

In an interview with Insider, Howard explained his theory of change, which he called “the four boxes of liberty.” The first box is the “soap box,” where individuals speak out for their rights. He said this is what his armed presence at Levine’s house constituted. Boxes two and three are, respectively, “the ballot box” and “the jury box,” or the courts.

But when those three aren’t enough, Howard said he would resort to “the cartridge box.”

“The founders of our nation gave us the Second Amendment to the Constitution for a reason. Virginia gave us Article 1 Section 13 [the state equivalent of the Second Amendment] for a reason. That reason is not hunting. That reason is not sport,” Howard continued.

“That’s not the way we achieve things in democracy,” Levine said of Howard’s gun-toting strategy. “I’m not going to change anything. He’s made me more determined.”

“I’m going to press charges. And if the law is unable to prosecute him, I’m going to change the laws to make sure people like him can be prosecuted in the future.”