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'Gun Lobby Day' in Richmond begins without massive crowds

Posted at 12:04 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 11:16:59-05

RICHMOND, Va. — Metal fencing and police barricades wrapped Capitol Square on a chilly Monday morning.

The city appeared much quieter than just two years ago when thousands of gun enthusiasts and supporters packed the streets in 2020.

“I remember speaking at it and looking over at the massive crowds,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL).

Instead, Van Cleave led a team inside the Pocahontas building aiming to talk to lawmakers face-to-face.

“We’ve got teams going around to all the legislators handing our agenda,” he explained. “This is a day where we are trying to get a bunch of gun control passed in the last two years repealed.”

VCDL has focused on three main laws that they hoped the General Assembly will change this year:

  1. To repeal the ban on guns in places of worship, preschools and day cares
  2. To revoke the authority of localities to implement gun bans in government buildings, parks and community centers
  3. To allow guns inside state agencies like the DMV, ABC stores, and the General Assembly

“We need to take that all away and let the state set the gun laws. Therefore, if you know the state law, you’re good everywhere,” Van Cleave stated.

Van Cleave hoped to hold another rally at the Capitol Square in 2023. He said scheduling conflicts with other groups requesting to use the space led them to postpone the rally until the next year.

Lori Haas serves as the Virginia State Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“We know gun violence is on the increase in the commonwealth. Our numbers are skyrocketing. It means we aren’t doing enough. I’m adamantly opposed to repealing,” Hass explained.

She warned that Virginians are experiencing a public health epidemic of gun violence.

“Repeal efforts are going after legitimate policies and laws the General Assembly passed to make us safer. We all deserve to live free from gun violence, and easy access to firearms and more and more spaces and places where firearms are present has not kept us safer,” she said.

However, Van Cleave said he was encouraged this year as Republicans control most of the state government except the Senate.

“We need some Democrats, especially in the Senate, to come along with us on some of these and we think some of them will because they’re bills that make a lot of sense on the self-defense point of view,” he stated.

Haas believed no Democratic state senators would vote to repeal these laws.

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