Gun-Rights Supporters Rally at Virginia Capitol, Urging Democrats to Preserve Firearm Rights

RICHMOND, Va. – Gun-rights supporters gathered at the Virginia Capitol on Monday to protest against the Democratic legislative majority’s push for stricter firearm regulations. The rally called for the state lawmakers to abandon their efforts to enact new gun laws under Governor Glenn Youngkin. Democratic legislators have introduced several measures aimed at enhancing public safety and reducing gun violence, including proposals to ban assault-style weapons and enforce stricter regulations on concealed handguns in restaurants and clubs. Despite the speakers at the event arguing that these measures would infringe on civil liberties, it is unlikely that the Democrats will be swayed by the rally.

The gun-rights rally was followed by a gun-control rally later in the day, highlighting the polarization of opinions on this issue. Governor Youngkin, who identified himself as a gun-rights supporter during his campaign, did not fill out a questionnaire from the National Rifle Association and did not receive their endorsement. Although his administration has not focused on gun-related bills in past sessions, Youngkin acknowledged the significance of the issue in his address on the opening day of the legislative session. He emphasized the need to hold criminals accountable for crimes committed with guns.

Gun-rights activists expressed optimism, mixed with some concern, about how Youngkin would act on gun-related legislation that reaches his desk. Philip Van Cleave, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, believes that if the gun bills opposed by his organization are presented to the governor, he will veto them. However, Youngkin’s spokesperson stated that the governor will review any legislation sent to him without specifying his position on individual bills.

In addition to the gun-related rallies, a Senate committee held a hearing on a measure that would legalize and tax “skill games” resembling slot machines. Proponents argue that there is an element of skill involved, but critics, including casino interests, believe the regulations would still be too lenient. The bill was advanced to the finance committee rather than the typical general laws committee, causing disappointment among some lawmakers.

On another front, Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill that would increase the minimum wage from the current rate of $12 to $15 by January 1, 2026. This proposal is opposed by various business interests. The day also included speeches honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as it coincided with the MLK holiday, informally called “Lobby Day” at the Virginia Capitol.

While this year’s crowd of gun-rights activists was smaller than in 2020, when tens of thousands protested proposed gun-control legislation, a few heavily armed individuals gathered outside Capitol Square, where carrying guns is generally prohibited. The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a grassroots group known for chartering buses to help supporters attend rallies, typically has a visible presence on Lobby Day.

The gun-rights rally represents the ongoing debate between gun control advocates and supporters of Second Amendment rights in Virginia. With the divided government in the state, Democrats are determined to prioritize the issue, despite opposition from gun-rights activists and potential veto threats from Governor Youngkin. As the legislative session continues, the fate of the proposed gun bills and other legislation remains uncertain.