In recent years, the annual tradition has seen large swaths of gun rights activists gather at the Capitol in Richmond, Virginia to demand that the state government repeal gun control laws.
But on Monday, the crowds were less impressive as just dozens of pro-gun group members, many wearing camo and bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles, gathered across the street from the Capitol. Some stood close to signs proclaiming that firearms are prohibited beyond a certain point.
The gun activists chanted about their freedoms and at one point, were seen walking towards the Capitol with their weapons, before they were promptly stopped by Richmond police who calmly let them know where guns are and are not allowed on the premises.
No arrests were reported, and by the end of the work day, the protesters gathered up their things and left.
Black Lives Matter activists were also on the scene, as were others protesting vaccine mandates.
In 2020, the Washington Post reports, 22,000 armed advocates from around the country converged on the Capitol for Lobby Day to protest Democrats’ efforts to pass gun control.
And after the Democrats passed laws to limit weapons on the Capitol last year, gun rights organizers staged a drive-through protest, holding out their guns and honking as they passed by.
But this year, with a new Republican governor and a Republican-controlled General Assembly, many of the bills being proposed would expand gun rights in the state.
Many focus on eliminating certain costs or penalties associated with gun usage and others would allow citizens to carry guns in more places.
Many of the gun rights activists on the scene on Monday were there to speak to their state legislators about supporting these types of bills, a change from previous years when they tried to prevent gun control laws from being passed.
Moderate crowds of pro-gun activists descended on Virginia’s Capitol Square on Monday for the state’s annual Lobby Day
Dozens of the men were seen carrying guns across the street from the state’s Capitol, where guns are prohibited
Several of the men were dressed in combat-gear as they waited outside the Capitol
This year saw smaller gun rights crowds than in years passed when they tried to prevent Democrats from passing gun control legislation
A man was decked out in Republican and Don’t Tread on Me pins as he wore a hat that said ‘Guns save lives’
There was a heavy police presence wrapped around the Capitol after previous contentious protest
Inside the Capitol, the scene was even more cordial, with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which organized the protest, dressed in button-down shirts as they met with lawmakers, according to the Washington Post.
‘We’ve got teams going around to all legislations handing our agenda,’ Philip Van Cleave told CBS News 6. ‘This is a day where we’re trying to get a bunch of gun control passed in the last two years repealed.’
The group was laser-focused on three things they said they would like the General Assembly to change in the new year:
- To repeal the ban on guns in places of worship, preschools and day cares
- To revoke the authorities of localities to implement gun bans in government buildings, parks and community centers
- To allow guns inside state agencies like the DMV and the post office.
‘We need to take that all away and let the state set the gun laws,’ Van Cleave said. ‘Therefore, if you know the state law, you’re good everywhere.’
One man was seen decked out in floral gear as he waved what appeared to be a Thin Red Line flag
Signs were displayed throughout the area noting that guns are prohibited on the Capitol grounds
A group of protesters guarded their truck with guns as they collected food
The guns rights activists formed a line around the Capitol with their hands on their guns
Members of Black Lives Matter 757 were also on the scene of the Capitol on Monday
As the men guarded the outdoors, allies inside lobbied officials to repeal gun control laws
But Lori Haas, the Virginia State Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, hit back at those assertions, claiming the gun laws made Virginians safer.
‘We know gun violence is on the increase in the commonwealth,’ she said. ‘Our numbers are skyrocketing.
‘It means we aren’t doing enough. I’m adamantly opposed to repealing,’ Haas said, adding: ‘Repeal efforts are going after legitimate policies and laws that the General Assembly passed to make us safer.
‘We all deserve to live free form gun violence, and easy access to firearms and more and more spaces and places where firearms are present has not kept us safer.’
Still, Van Cleave said he was encouraged that the Republicans are now in control of the governorship and the General Assembly.
‘We need some Democrats, especially in the Senate, to come along with us on these things,’ he said, ‘and we think some of them will because they’re bills that make a lot of sense of the self-defense point of view.’
A group of women were also on the scene of this year’s Lobby Day protesting vaccine mandates
Members of the local Black Lives Matter chapter are pictured here outside the Capitol
Brandon Howard, 45, collected food while attending Lobby Day with the Virginia Citizens Defense League
At one point, protesters could be seen marching towards the Capitol, but they were stopped by police
A patch on a tactical vest is seen daring officials to take his guns during a gun rights rally outside of the Virginia State Capitol
Following the end of Lobby Day, protesters on the scene gathered up their stuff and left