VCDL President Has Stark Warning About 'Assault Weapons' Push

It might be tempting for gun owners in Virginia to assume that Democrats’ push for a gun ban bill in the upcoming legislative session isn’t going to get far with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in a position to veto any bad bill that comes his way, Phillip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League tells Bearing Arms Cam & Co that would be a big mistake.


“I was warning everybody that if we didn’t turn out and get this election to go the right way that they were going to come after that again,” Van Cleave says, and to his credit a bill banning the sale of so-called assault weapons and large capacity magazines was one of the first pieces of legislation introduced after Democrats seized narrow control of both the House of Delegates and Senate a few weeks ago.

While few Democrats running for the statehouse actively campaigned on a gun ban, preferring instead to focus on access to abortion rather than infringing on a fundamental civil right, it’s now clear that an “assault weapons” ban will be a top priority for Democrats in the General Assembly when the 2024 session gets underway in early January. I confess that I was among those surprised to see a gun ban bill introduced so quickly, especially given that the last attempt to enshrine a gun ban into law resulted in Republicans taking control of the House and all statewide offices in 2021.

“If they were smart they’d go ‘last time we touched this 50,000 people showed up to say not only no but hell no’, and they got rid of it right away. And here we are again,” Van Cleave said with exasperation.


I suspect that one of the reasons why Virginia Democrats are throwing caution to the wind is that Democrats nationally are going to be making an equally big push for an “assault weapons” ban in 2024, starting at the very top of the ticket. Joe Biden can’t seem to go more than a day or two without demanding a prohibition on modern sporting rifles, and if he’s going to make a gun ban one of the centerpieces of his campaign Virginia Democrats are going to fall in line and be good foot soldiers even if many of them would prefer to downplay the issue until after our next statewide elections in 2025.

Van Cleave notes that neither HB 2 and SB 2, as introduced, call for the confiscation of currently-owned firearms, but warns that any grandfather clauses could easily be extinguished; either through an amendment offered on the floor or through subsequent legislation once the initial ban is in place.

One of the best ways to push back against the gun ban efforts is for Second Amendment advocates to show up for the VCDL’s Lobby Day, which will take place on January 15th. After the massive turnout in 2020, where tens of thousands of gun owners showed up at the state capitol in Richmond to protest a gun ban bill, Democrats responded by barring lawful concealed carry on the capitol grounds. Van Cleave says the carry ban was enacted to suppress turnout for future events, but the VCDL has a plan for attendees who don’t want to leave their guns at home.


“There will be a vehicle like we had last year; a big truck where you can check your guns [before entering the General Assembly],” Van Cleave informed me.

The VCDL head says he’s heard from some gun owners complaining that if they can’t carry at the capitol they’re not going to turn up at all, and he has no patience for that line of thinking.

“How are you ever going to fix this? This is exactly the trap that they set. They said ‘let’s just ban guns and all those gun people will go away because they can’t carry anymore.’ It’s a Catch-22 but we can’t let them win. You’re letting them win if you do that. How are we going to get this undone if we don’t show up in large numbers to say undo this and fix this now.”

He’s absolutely right, which is why I’ll be making the hour-long drive from the Farmville area to the state capitol complex on January 15th and encouraging every Virginia gun owner to do the same. If Democrats want to do Biden’s bidding by making a gun ban one of the centerpieces of their legislative agenda, I’m going to do my part to remind them that they do so at their own electoral peril.


Be sure to check out the entire conversation with Phillip Van Cleave in the video window below for a look at some of the bills the Virginia Citizens Defense League will be supporting, as well as a discussion on the importance of fielding pro-2A candidates even in deep-blue Democratic districts. And if you’re a Virginia gun owner, sign up for the VCDL’s email alerts at so you can stay in the loop on pending legislation, litigation, regulations, and details on all of the 2024 Lobby Day activities.

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