RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — Thousands of gun-rights activists from around the country rallied peacefully at the Virginia Capitol on Monday, protestingplans by the state's Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation that have become a key flashpoint in the national debate over gun violence.
Photo: Capital News Service
The size of the rally and the expected participation of white supremacists and fringe militia groups raised fears that the state could see a repeat of the violence that exploded in 2017 in Charlottesville.
But the rally concluded uneventfully around noon, and the mood was largely festive. Attendees spilled into the streets, chanting “USA” and waving signs denouncing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
“The government doesn’t run us, we run the government,” said Kem Regik, a 20-year-old private security officer from northern Virginia who brought a white flag with a picture of a rifle captioned, “Come and take it.”
Others carried signs with messages like "I want gay married couples to be able to protect their marijuana plants with guns."
The Virginia State Police, the Virginia Capitol Police and the Richmond Police had a strong presence. Police limited access to Capitol Square to only one entrance and warned rally-goers they may have to wait hours to get past security screening.
Monday's rally was organized by an influential grassroots gun-rights group, the Virginia Citizens Defense League. The group holds a yearly rally at the Capitol, typically a low-key event with a few hundred gun enthusiasts listening to speeches from a handful of ambitious Republican lawmakers. But this year, many more were expected. Second Amendment groups have identified the state as a rallying point for the fight against what they see as a national erosion of gun rights.
The pushback against proposed new gun restrictions began immediately after Democrats won majorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates in November. Much of the opposition has focused on a proposed assault weapons ban. While the Senate version of that bill was killed in committee, a House of Delegates version remains.
The rally coincides with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which is typically a chance for everyday citizens to use a day off work to lobby their legislators. However, the threat of violence announced by Gov. Northam largely kept other groups away from the Capitol, including gun control groups that hold an annual vigil for victims of gun violence.
Photos from Richmond, including those from WHSV viewers, Capital News Service, our affiliates, and others, can be found in a slideshow below. You can share your photos and videos with us by clicking here. Uploading photo or video through that link gives us copyright clearance to use your content on-air and online to share with the rest of our viewers.