RICHMOND, Va. — Some people streamed in on buses from faraway cities. Others drove cars through the night from places like Indianapolis and Fredericksburg, Texas, logging hundreds of miles and leaning on coffee and Red Bull. Still others came from only a few counties over, but carrying the same vehement message as the rest: Leave gun laws alone.Thousands of people descended on Richmond, the capital of Virginia, on Monday to show support for the rights of gun owners as a push for gun control measures by that state’s newly empowered Democrats has inserted Virginia into a nationwide debate over gun violence and the Second Amendment.“I don’t like what they are doing to our rights,” said Raymond Pfaff, 85, from Louisa County, Va., who wore a yellow sign around his neck that read, “First Gun Control and Then People Control.”“Guns protected this country for a couple of hundred years, and this two-faced governor just wants to take them,” he said, referring to Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat who has agreed to sign provisions banning guns in parks and limiting handgun purchases if Virginia lawmakers approve them.
“I’m a patriotic American,” Mr. Pfaff said. “The left is going so far left right now.”Virginia has a long history of supporting gun rights. Only last year, after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach that left 12 people dead, a special lawmaking session on gun control ended in 90 minutes without any action.But a gradual demographic shift has emerged in the state — suburbs have boomed, and the ratio of Virginians in rural areas has shrunk. When Democrats flipped the State Legislature in the fall and won control of the state government for the first time in a generation, they pledged, in part, to swiftly seek new limits to guns. All of that has thrust Virginia into a tense battle over gun rights, and into the center of a national cultural divide.“People feel their values are under attack and the emerging liberal elite are either unaware or unresponsive,” Bob Holsworth, a pol
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