AP Photo/Steve Helber
While I’ll be speaking at the Lobby Day rally scheduled to take place Monday morning at the state capitol alongside individuals like Stephen Willeford of Sutherland Springs, Texas, Dick Heller, Antonia Okafor, and more, I want to say a few things to everyone attending before the event begins.
First, to all of my fellow Virginia gun owners who showed up at your county supervisors and city council meetings to urge them to support the right of the People to keep and bear arms and declare their community a Second Amendment Sanctuary, thank you. I know that many of you are traveling a long way to make it to the capitol. For many of you, this may be your first time attending a Lobby Day. You may be very new to citizen activism, but you’re making a difference.
You know how unique this movement has been over the past two months. It hasn’t been led or directed from above. You’re not taking any marching orders from anyone. You heard about what was going on with Democrats and their gun bills from your neighbor, at the grocery store checkout, or maybe your local gun store owner. You organized with your friends and family and were thrilled to see a packed house at your next local government meeting. You may not even have been able to get in the door yourself, and strained to listen to what was happening while standing in the cold December night. You didn’t leave until you heard the roar of the crowd as the Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution was approved, and you cheered along with hundreds of your neighbors on the steps of the county courthouse.
I’ve stood with you on those steps. I’ve seen you helping your kids with their homework in the foyer of the Louisa County administrators building. I’ve heard your impassioned pleas for lawmakers to focus their efforts on fighting violent crime and repairing our mental health system instead of targeting you and other legal gun owners. I know how important this effort is to you, and that you are bringing that same spirit with you to the capitol for Lobby Day. I salute you and thank you for all of your efforts and I urge to you stay politically engaged after you leave the capitol and return home. We still have a long legislative fight ahead of us, but this is also an election year, and we need to be as involved as possible from now through November to ensure that candidates who will protect our rights win election.
You are the heart and soul of this grassroots movement of civic engagement and peaceful protest. And unfortunately, your success is being recognized not just with a huge amount of media attention, but with unwanted attention from those who would co-opt Lobby Day for their own purposes, be it benign or malignant.
Republican and Democratic leadership in the Virginia legislature were given a security briefing on Friday, and while the lawmakers cannot disclose the information that they’ve learned, Republicans didn’t come out afterwards proclaiming that they hadn’t heard anything that rises to a credible threat. Instead, GOP lawmakers released a statement on Saturday morning decrying any attempt by violent agitators to cause unrest.
My statement on Monday’s 2nd Amendment rally in Richmond: pic.twitter.com/41imrpW6Ey
— Todd Gilbert (@cToddGilbert) January 18, 2020
Del. Gilbert is right when he says some individuals are going to try to subvert what your grassroots movement has created, and honestly, I’m as angry at them as I am at the lawmakers who are trying to infringe on our rights.
So let me now address those few individuals who may be planning on attending Lobby Day to do something other than peacefully lobby lawmakers to reject Governor Ralph Northam’s unconstitutional gun control agenda. You’re not needed, you’re not wanted, and you won’t be welcomed.
The gun owners of Virginia who are lobbying their lawmakers don’t believe that the right to keep and bear arms is a right of the Right, or a right of the whites, or of any other specific demographic. It is the right of the People to keep and bear arms that shall not be infringed. We are advocating for the human right of self defense and our constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, and for nothing else. We stand together regardless of color, class, or creed in support of those rights. This is not an insurrection or a violent protest. This is not an opportunity to clash with anyone, whether it’s the alt-right or antifa. Lobby Day is an act of civic engagement on the part of thousands of Virginia residents. If you have any other agenda planned, don’t come at all.
I know the vast majority of the gun owners I’ve seen who are coming from other states are coming with the right frame of mind. You want to stand with Virginians in support, not try to spark off violence that would only enable anti-gun lawmakers to find the support they need for bills that are currently struggling, like Ralph Northam’s gun, mag, and suppressor ban. You know that any violence would only be used by lawmakers to ram through their gun control bills, and you know that means anyone advocating for or engaging in acts of violence are no friend of the Second Amendment or Virginia gun owners. I thank you for standing with us, and hope that you will help to ensure a peaceful and successful event.
Finally, for any Virginia lawmakers who support any of these gun control bills that have been filed this session and who are able to hear or speak to their constituents, I hope that you’ll be able to filter out the noise and the narrative from outside groups and actually listen to what the people you represent have to say. They’re asking you to focus on the real issues that are driving violent crime and the state’s mental health crisis. They care deeply about safe communities, but they know that their legally owned guns aren’t the problem. Many of them can tell you stories of their family members, co-workers, or friends lost to opiates that have flooded the state and killed more Virginians than firearms. They know that a red flag law that takes guns from those determined to be a danger, but leaves them with no mental health treatment, is not a serious solution to the serious problems we face. They also know that the vast majority of the state’s gun owners would be turned into felons overnight if bills like HB 961 became law, and they’re trying to help you avoid making a disastrous mistake.
To everyone attending Lobby Day, I hope that it is an experience that leaves you energized and engaged in the legislative fights we face, the litigation and pushback against any new laws that is sure to come, and the November elections that will be here in the blink of an eye. If you see someone trying to start trouble, let the appropriate authorities know. If someone tries to start trouble with you, don’t engage. Be safe, be kind, and be a good ambassador for our Second Amendment rights and gun owners across the nation.