AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

The Virginia Citizen’s Defense League does a lot of good work in the Old Dominion State when it comes to gun rights. It’s a voracious defender of the right to keep and bear arms in a state increasingly trying to shift into an anti-gun stronghold. The fact that it’s been able to block gun-control legislation as effectively as it has tells you plenty about the organization and its efforts.

Part of those efforts, of course, is a need to be for the group to be seen out and about in Virginia.

However, a festival in Blacksburg where the group has had a booth each of the last six years now won’t have them.

Blacksburg Steppin’ Out attracts hundreds of people every year to check out live music, art, crafts and local vendors. This year, however, one political activist group is planning a protest after they were denied a booth at the festival.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, which lobbies for gun rights and teaches firearm safety, said it was denied a booth at the festival this year.

League President Philip VanCleave was told it’s because the league did not fit in with the festival’s new themes, which include arts and entertainment and health and wellness.

“We expected they would (deny the permit) because we knew this was a charade on their part to lock us out,” VanCleave told 10 News in a phone interview.

Of course, this could well look like paranoia. Gun rights groups are targetted so much that they sometimes see enemies where there aren’t any.

However, I don’t think that’s the case this time.

You see, VCDL isn’t the only activist group that routinely has a booth at the festival.

A statement to WSLS reads, in part: “the festival re-design simply did not include room for individuals (including political candidates) and organizations whose primary focus is advocacy on political or social causes and issues, regardless of viewpoint or message.”

People in town, including Blacksburg resident Sanford Shepard and Virginia Tech student Victoria French, were split on the issue,

“There’s all sorts of activist groups that have booths at Steppin’ Out so I don’t know why they would be, you know, neglected or pushed out,” Shepard said.

“I’m not pro guns myself but I think everyone has the right to voice their opinion if they’re doing it peacefully,” said French.

If even one of those groups has a booth this year as well, then VCDL has every right to be furious that it was denied. I’m also willing to bet that there will still be groups with booths.

VanCleave noted that the festival routinely threw up new barriers for the organization to clear each year, which it did. That suggests this latest move is nothing more than another attempt to prevent VCDL from reaching out to the public.

However, VCDL will still be at the festival. It intends to protest it by mingling with the crowd and handing out fliers. Frankly, I think that’s the best move humanly possible under the circumstances.

We’ll have to see if the festival is true to its word and there are no activist organizations present, but I’m not holding my breath on it.