Insight to the Virginia General Assembly from the RTD political team.

Richmond Times-Dispatch - RTD Virginia Insider

Gun-rights rally draws 22,000 to Virginia Capitol. No violence reported.

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND

What some feared would be another Charlottesville, instead, was Woodstock with weapons.

Well, not quite.

An estimated 22,000 people – 6,000 inside Capitol Square; 16,000 in the surrounding streets – descended on Richmond for a gun-rights rally that some organizers had said would attract 50,000 or more. Fears of violence sparked a huge police presence and a prohibition on guns on the Capitol grounds, though legal open-carry was the rule beyond the statehouse gates.

Mel Leonor and Justin Mattingly report that cold, blustery weather did not deter protesters, some of whom traveled to Virginia from Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. The throng was generally well behaved – just one arrest was reported – and, at times, seemed downright celebratory, bound by a shared revulsion for gun control.

Firearms activists signaled their distaste for Virginia’s anticipated crackdown with signs attacking Gov. Ralph Northam, who had banned weapons from Capitol Square; tea party pennants, Confederate flags and openly displayed guns: magazine-fed semiautomatic pistols, revolvers, military-style long rifles and stubby, home-defense shotguns.

The demonstration, paired with grassroots lobbying of the Democrat-controlled legislature, might not change any minds. Democrats took back the General Assembly in November, in part, by harnessing public outrage over Republican refusal to curb firearms following a mass slaying in Virginia Beach last May. READ MORE

- Jeff E. Schapiro



Thousands with firearms fill streets in downtown Richmond

JAMES H. WALLACE/TIMES-DISPATCH

Chris Suarez reports that some of the armed men who occupied downtown streets in protest of Gov. Ralph Northam's proposed gun control measures some were quite pleasant, according to the proprietor of a downtown coffee shop.

"There was a guy with a Hummer and a loud speaker outside this morning. That was a little nerve wracking - I don’t know what that was about," said Jennie Skinner of Sefton Coffee, a favorite of downtown workers.

"But generally inside they were the most polite people I’ve had in awhile," she said. "Everyone was in good spirits." READ MORE



Amid gun-rights rally, some speak out for gun control

2016/BOB BROWN/TIMES-DISPATCH

Bridget Balch and Michael Martz report that some gun control advocates found ways to take part on Lobby Day.

Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America stayed away from the fray, but mobilized 100 volunteers to make at least 2,300 calls to Virginia lawmakers.

Lisette Johnson (above, right in a 2016 photo with Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax), is a survivor of domestic gun violence who advocates with Everytown for Gun Safety. She said that the photos of people gathering at the Capitol with firearms prompted traumatic memories of her own assault, when her husband shot her in front of her children in 2009.

But Johnson said that the Virginia voters who elected a Democratic majority sent a "loud and clear" message that they want legislators to pass new gun restrictions.

Martz reports that 13 students with March for Our Lives slept on the floor in two legislators' offices Sunday night so they could participate in Lobby Day on Monday. READ MORE



Richmond faith leaders gather blocks from the Capitol to honor MLK

The Associated Press

Sabrina Moreno reports that the presence of thousands of gun-rights activists downtown made faith leaders more determined to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

After what Rabbi Michael Knopf described as a hefty discussion, they chose to hold this year’s prayer vigil at Centenary United Methodist Church, a few blocks from the state Capitol.

The vigil began at 9 a.m. with a statement signed by more than 30 faith leaders, urging communities to continue channeling MLK’s courage and give vision to a peaceful society. READ MORE



Scenes from Monday's gun-rights rally

BY FRANK GREEN Richmond Times-Dispatch

Click here to see is a collection of Richmond Times-Dispatch photos from Monday's rally.

Here is our collection of videos from the gun-rights event.

Lastly, here is the blog in which our reporters covered the day's events as they unfolded.

Michael Mumford (above) of Richmond said: "It's important to let everyone know we're not a monolith."



IN OTHER NEWS

• Psst: The presidential inauguration is a year from today.

• The Iowa caucuses are two weeks from today.



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Photo of the day

ALEXA EDLUND WELCH

Joe Puszakowski, of Pittsburgh, who served in Iraq in 2003, waves the American flag at the gun-rights rally in Richmond on Monday.



Quote of the day

"This is what happens when you threaten the rights of Americans."

- Philip Van Cleave, head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, addressing thousands of gun-rights supporters at the state Capitol.