RICHMOND, Va.—At least 22,000 Second Amendment advocates hailing from across the country assembled at Virginia’s State Capitol building to rally against a slew of gun control proposals that are in the process of passing through the Democrat-controlled state legislature.
The mood throughout the Jan. 20 gun rights rally, also known as “Lobby Day” was upbeat, and Capitol police said there were no arrests or injuries reported as of 1 p.m. The rally, organized annually by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a nonprofit grassroots organization whose goal is to advance the right to keep and bear arms, concluded peacefully just after noon.
Some Second Amendment advocates and gun rights supporters spent the morning inside the Pocahontas building, conveying their concerns to delegates and, more often than not, their staff members, as many of the delegates weren’t present. VCDL members led these groups as they spoke to legislative staff about what they described as an “injustice.”
Authorities said an estimated 22,000 people in total showed up. Overhead, security looked down from rooftops on nearby buildings and on the Capitol itself.
“I didn’t want to see innocent people punished for the crimes of the guilty, and that’s what these gun laws do,” Cody Claxton from Annandale, Virginia, told The Epoch Times.
“The goal is to convince our delegates that these laws are going to create a bigger problem than [any] they try to solve and, hopefully, get them to think twice.”
Claxton was in one of many small groups of roughly a dozen people who went around to each office in the building trying to persuade the delegates to drop their push for stricter gun control legislation.
“It was a very informative session,” Sandra W. Brandt, the chief of staff to Nancy Dahlman Guy, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, told The Epoch Times. “I was glad to hear the views of those individuals concerning their gun rights. I know that many folks want good legislation.”
Outside the building, the crowds grew larger by the minute as chants of “Northam out” erupted periodically. They were referring to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) who has vowed to push a slew of gun control bills, including red flag laws, universal background checks, and a limit to purchase only one handgun a month.
Democrats won control of both chambers of the state legislature in the November elections and have vowed to enact stronger gun control legislation. They believe that stricter legislation will help reduce shootings and deaths and “break the cycle” of gun violence. Some gun control advocates also showed up during the rally, but things went peacefully without incident.
A portion of gun rights supporters openly carried their arms in the surrounding street and chose not to enter the Capitol so as to not violate a temporary weapons ban by Northam, who had earlier declared a state of emergency over what he said were “credible threats of violence surrounding the event,” citing intelligence. Many gun rights advocates donned makeshift military gear and long rifles.
“With a stroke of a pen, every one of these people would be felons—that’s not fair. That’s not good for anybody,” Justin Dorton, who came from North Carolina, told The Epoch Times. Dorton was one of many carrying their rifles openly.
“Nobody here wants violence; a gun is used to protect you,” he said. “The Second Amendment is not a government-given right, it’s a God-given right.”
Just before noon, a number of speakers organized by VCDL spoke on the Capitol steps as lawmakers watched. One of the speakers was Steven Willeford, the man who helped take down a gunman at a Texas church shooting in 2017.
“I think they all need to go away,” Willeford told The Epoch Times, referring to the gun control proposals. “You can’t have a police officer everywhere all the time.”