Gun advocates in Richmond pledge peaceful Lobby Day caravan

Downtown Richmond, Virginia, is the site of the annual Lobby Day event in support of gun rights, but the 2021 rally is different than previous years because of COVID-19 and the violent Jan. 6 takeover of the U.S. Capitol.

Since Virginia lawmakers are meeting remotely rather than in the Richmond Capitol, the Virginia Civil Defense League, and its leader Philip Cleve, orchestrated a caravan, which is traveling the streets of Richmond in support of gun rights on Monday afternoon.

Most of those involved in the rally are in their vehicles, but before noon, a half-dozen advocates, with long guns slung over their shoulders were seen walking along Broad Street in the City Center neighborhood, lined with businesses. Nearby, commuters — including those waiting for city buses — ignored the armed strollers.

A few blocks away, road closures are in place for several blocks surrounding the Capitol Square.

With Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and a Democratic-majority in the Virginia General Assembly, gun-rights advocates have been concerned about new laws that would limit their ability to own guns.

Four caravans from different parts of Virginia, including one originating in Fairfax County, used tracking devices and social media to coordinate their arrival in Richmond. A YouTube channel and podcast includes speakers encouraging gun owners to advocate with lawmakers for their ability to own firearms.

Signs have been posted by Richmond police regarding a 2020 city ordinance that forbids the carrying of guns in areas where permitted events are held, “or an event that would otherwise require a permit.”

In communications with members, the VCDL said if Richmond police advise them to leave a particular area and move: “Don’t argue, simply comply. That should be the end of it. Most of Richmond is sign-free.”

Also Monday, Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring will speak at a virtual rally about Virginia lives lost to gun violence, days after four gun violence prevention groups sent a letter to the General Assembly calling for an end to the commonwealth’s open carry law.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reports from Richmond.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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