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  • People take part in a rally against the Virginia Democrats' plan to pass gun legislation, at the Virginia State Capitol building, in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. January 20, 2020.

    People take part in a rally against the Virginia Democrats' plan to pass gun legislation, at the Virginia State Capitol building, in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. January 20, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 January 2020
Opinion

“What’s going on here, if not stopped, will spread to other states,” said Teri Horne, who had traveled to Virginia from her home in Texas with her Smith & Wesson rifle and .40-caliber handgun. “They will come for our guns in other states if we don’t stop them in Virginia.”

A large number of armed gun-rights activists descended on Virginia's capitol building on Monday to protest a package of gun-control legislation making its way through the newly Democratic-controlled state legislature.

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According to the Reuters News Agency, the Richmond rally was surrounded by heavy security after Virginian Governor Ralph Northam banned carrying weapons onto the capitol grounds.

The reason for the heavy security was due to fears of a potential replay of the violence at a 2017 demonstration by white nationalists in Charlottesville that killed a counter-protester.

The Charlottesville rally , also dubbed "Unite the Right", resulted in one person killed after a white nationalist drove his vehicle into one of the people protesting the march.

That order was sparked by fears that members of white nationalist and militia groups planned to attend the rally, which organizers the Virginia Citizens Defense League planned as a peaceful show of political power. The FBI earlier in the week arrested three alleged neo-Nazis who it said intended to use the event to spark a race war.

Activists at the rally argued that Virginia was trying to infringe on their right to bear arms, which is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“What’s going on here, if not stopped, will spread to other states,” said Teri Horne, who had traveled to Virginia from her home in Texas with her Smith & Wesson rifle and .40-caliber handgun. “They will come for our guns in other states if we don’t stop them in Virginia.”

Northam, a Democrat, has vowed to push through new gun control laws and is backing a package of eight bills, including universal background checks, a “red flag” law, a ban on assault-style rifles and a limit of one handgun-a-month purchase. It does not call for confiscating guns currently legally owned.

It is not his first attempt. He called a special legislative session last year after the massacre of 12 people in Virginia Beach, but the Republicans who then controlled the legislature ended that meeting without a vote.

State Democratic leaders and activists believe that move contributed to the November victories that gave them control of both chambers.

A group of 13 student activists from March For Our Lives, a gun-control group, slept inside the capitol building on Sunday night ahead of impromptu meetings with lawmakers to encourage them to pass the legislation.

“A lot of the protesters outside have a really extreme reading of the Second Amendment,” Eve Levenson, a 20-year-old political science student at George Washington University, said in a telephone interview, adding that some gun owners feared regulation of firearms amounted to confiscation. “What we’re fighting for is common-sense laws that are proven to work and are already effective in other states.”

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Virginia U.S.
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