At tense Virginia rally, gun rights activists vow fight just getting started

1 year ago
RICHMOND, Va. ─ Thousands of gun rights activists, banned from carrying their weapons out of fear of violence, crammed into the Virginia Capitol on Monday to urge state lawmakers to reject sweeping measures to limit the spread of firearms.The rally, planned for weeks as part of a citizen-lobbying tradition held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, has focused national attention on Virginia's attempts to enact new gun regulations, pushed by Democrats who took control of the Statehouse for the first time in 26 years. Gun control supporters say they are acting on voters' wishes, propelled by a mass shooting in May in Virginia Beach.Gun rights proponents warn that the measures ─ including bills that would impose universal background checks, ban military-style rifles and allow authorities to temporarily take guns from people deemed dangerous to themselves or to others ─ will snowball into attempts to disarm the public.Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics"We will not comply," activists chanted from both sides of a security fence ringing the Capitol grounds. The crowd was largely white and diverse in age, with most wearing orange stickers saying "Guns save lives." Many rode chartered buses from all over the state and waited hours in line to get into the Capitol grounds before passing through airport-style security. On the other side of the fence, large crowds formed, and many activists openly carried firearms, including long guns. Many also wore camouflage and military gear.About 22,000 people attended the rally, 6,000 on Capitol Square and 16,000 outside the security gates, authorities said.
Members of an armed militia group arrive near the Virginia Capitol building to advocate for gun rights in Richmond on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.Stephanie Keith / Reuters
In the days leading up to the rally, there were fears that it would be a repeat of the violent 2017 protest in Charlottesville that ended in a woman's death. Gun safety groups canceled a MLK Day vigil at the C
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