I had no idea what to expect when I woke up Monday morning to head to the capitol, but I figured if we were going to have a good crowd I’d better get their early. I left my hotel in downtown Richmond around 7 a.m. and was immediately struck by the number of people already on the streets. By the time I reached the Pocahontas Building about a block from the capitol itself, there were already hundreds of individuals lined up to enter the building to lobby their lawmakers. Hundreds more had already gathered on the closed-off street as well.
Everybody seemed to be in a good mood, despite the freezing cold temperatures. It struck me that this was a family reunion of sorts; many of these citizens were and are a part of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, and while they may have similar stories of attending their county supervisors meetings, this was the first time that gun owners and 2A supporters from Virginia’s 91 Second Amendment Sanctuary counties had ever gathered in one place. It felt like the culmination of something, but also the start of something else. I think the first chapter of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement has now been written, but the next chapter is just starting to unfold.
I saw no signs advocating white supremacy, communism, or any other ism. There were a few Trump 2020 flags, and several candidates had tables set up on the streets outside the capitol, but for the most part this was a very non-partisan event. There was one item on the agenda for those who braved the cold; the right to keep and bear arms.
By the time the rally started at 11 a.m., the streets of downtown Richmond were packed for several blocks. It was had to get a good idea of just how many people overall were downtown, but clearly it was in the tens of thousands. Yes, some of them were armed. No, they weren’t trying to intimidate lawmakers, though that’s what gun control activists are claiming. It’s frankly sad to see lawmakers claim to be intimidated by people who are simply exercising their rights.
Those hearts and minds may not have been changed by the presence of so many law-abiding Virginians exercising their right to peaceably assemble and lobby their lawmakers, but I suspect that there were several state Senators who are thinking long and hard about bills like HB 961, which would turn almost every Virginia gun owner into a felon for keeping the magazines, suppressors, and firearms they currently own. As I noted the other day, right now there are four Democrats who say they can’t support the bill as written, and I don’t think today made it any easier for them to do so.
I find it difficult to describe what it felt like to stand at the podium and address the crowd. First of all, it was nearly impossible to see them because of the crowd of photographers and videographers. Thankfully, it was easy to hear the Virginians assembled on the capitol lawn and the streets below.
I wanted to spend my time at the podium thanking all of my fellow Virginians who’ve been a part of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, and to urge them to continue to stay engaged through the legislative and legal fights ahead. I also hoped to remind gun owners that we have elections coming up in November, and to use this powerful new movement to help elect officials that understand our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. I *think* I remembered to do that. Honestly, it was kind of a blur.
The peaceful, passionate, and powerful public assembly was everything I hoped it would be. Organizers feel the same way. I spoke to Phillip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League Monday afternoon, and he told me that he was “totally pleased by the turnout and the peacefulness of the rally.”
“So many absolutely fantastic Americans standing shoulder to shoulder to protect the rights of Virginia gun owners,” he said. “Hopefully with lessons learned here, they’ll help protect other states as time goes on.”
The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement didn’t begin in Virginia, but it’s where the movement has really taken shape and coalesced. I suspect that Van Cleave is right to think that many of those who came to Virginia for Lobby Day to support their fellow gun owners will be energized as they return home, and will hopefully bring that excitement to their efforts to protect and secure our Second Amendment rights in their state.
A huge thank you to everyone who came out to Lobby Day, and a special thank you to all those who stopped to say hello, shake my hand, let me know how much you enjoy Cam & Co. and pose for selfies with my beard. It was great to meet you, and I hope it won’t be long before our paths cross again.