Earlier this month, Democrats in the Virginian Congress proposed a series of laws that limit assault rifle ownership, institute universal background checks for gun purchases, and prevent people who are labeled as dangerous from buying a gun. In response, thousands of people took part in the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s (VCDL) “Lobby Day” in Richmond.
Normally, this event is very small, with only about one hundred people in attendance. This massive increase in the number of protestors caused Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to declare a state of emergency a few days before the rally. This state of emergency resulted in weapons being temporarily banned from certain parts of Richmond. Governor Northam was mainly afraid that the rally would lead to a repeat of 2017’s Charlottesville Rally despite the VCDL’s repeated claims that the event would be nonviolent.
The media rapidly picked up on the situation and predicted that violence would break out during the protests. Many news sources also claimed that white supremacists would attend the protest and commit acts of violence. Thankfully, the rally was extremely peaceful. Out of almost 22,000 attendants, only two people were arrested. One person was charged with wearing a mask in public, while the other person wore a bandana over her face despite being told by police officers to stop multiple times.
Despite the massive number of attendants at the rally, it ultimately had little impact on how politicians voted on the gun control bills. On January 22, the Virginian Senate passed a “red flag” bill that prevents people labeled as dangerous from owning guns. This vote occurred completely along party lines, since all Democrats approved the bill while all Republicans opposed it. After stating that many dangerous people would be unwilling to voluntarily give their guns to the police, Republican Senator A. Benton Chafin said, “bloodshed… will occur as a result of this bill.”