RICHMOND, Va. -- Highly anticipated topics, like bills related to guns, are up for debate in the General Assembly's Lobby Day on Monday.
Hundreds of people from across the state traveled to Richmond to make their voices heard and positions known when it comes to gun laws in the Commonwealth.
Members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) spent the morning handing out a list of bills they'd like to see passed to lawmakers in the House and Senate.
Philip Van Cleave, VCDL president, noted the group had also had a U-Haul with storage boxes parked near the Capitol for those who brought their firearms with them to Richmond, as guns are no longer allowed in the Capitol, General Assembly or Capitol Square.
Van Cleave and his group are pushing for a bill that would get rid of local gun control since there are 17 localities that have banned firearms. They'd also like to see a bill passed that would allow constitutional carry — meaning you wouldn’t have to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
"That's something now that 25 states have," explained Van Cleave. "So we're way behind the power curve on this, so that's also high on our agenda to kill all the gun control bills."
The VCDL held a rally at the Bell Tower in Capitol Square, where Van Cleave, and others in support of pro-gun legislation spoke to a crowd of supporters.
"Guns are a tool," said Van Cleave. "You can use them for good or you can use them for bad. Guns save far more lives than they take every year. But like anything else, you could take a hammer and build a house for homeless person or you could take a hammer and you could murder the homeless person."
An hour before the VCDL rally, Democratic house members hosted a news conference announcing gun violence prevention legislation.
Lori Haas, the advocacy manager at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, spoke at the event and noted she would like to see a safe storage bill passed, which would require adults to lock up their weapons.
This comes in response to Newport News Police saying a 6-year-old student obtained his mother's firearm and shot his teacher at Richneck Elementary School in the city earlier this month.
"When a 6-year-old has access to a firearm and goes to school and shoots a teacher, it's a tragedy of epic proportions," said Haas. "We pray for her recovery. However, the parent or guardian of that 6-year-old is responsible. He or she left a gun out that the 6-year-old got, and we cannot blame the 6-year-old."
Democratic leaders also voiced support for bills that address semi-automatic assault style rifles.
"Virginians strongly support regulations that prevent access to firearms by prohibited people and access to weapons of war," Haas noted. "We know what needs to be done, and we're relying on our representatives in the General Assembly to get that done."
Both sides do note that with a divided government this year, we are less likely to see any bills related to guns pass during the 2023 session.
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