WINCHESTER — Cross Junction resident Abe Wine was among numerous local residents who attended a rally in support of gun rights at the state Capitol on Monday.

“The streets were completely packed full,” Wine said. “It was just people that want to have their voices heard. There was no violence. There was no ignorance. It was just people exercising their First Amendment right in support of their Second Amendment right, plain and simple.”

Tens of thousands of gun-rights activists came to the event to protest gun control legislation proposed by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Wine, who traveled to the rally by bus with a group of friends, believes many of the proposed gun control measures are “extreme” and said it was important to him for his voice to be heard. He said if legislators vote along party lines, “there nothing stopping” the legislation from passing.

The Capitol building was fenced off during the event, and no guns were allowed inside the fenced area.

Wine said security was in full force, with officers surrounding the perimeter. He said activists who brought their guns protested outside of the fenced area.

Local resident Greg Mauzy, who attended the rally, called it “a great experience. [I] felt safe and secure all day. For a short period, Richmond was the safest city in Virginia — maybe the nation.”

Randy Gardner, of Frederick County, a member of the Virginia Citizens Defense League — a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms — traveled to the rally by bus with other league members. When they arrived in Richmond, they prayed for civility and safety during the rally, he said.

Although “there were a few people here and there that were a little more radical than most normal people would tend to side with,” Gardner said most rally participants were civil.

“To see that many armed militia in one spot without any violence was very amazing,” Gardner said.

Frederick County resident Susan Shick, who was one of the leaders in an effort to make Frederick County a Second Amendment sanctuary (a resolution to that effect was adopted by the county’s Board of Supervisors in December), said she and other gun-rights activists were proud of “the peaceful display of strength and solidarity” shown at the rally. She said it disproved concerns raised by Gov. Ralph Northam and other Democrats that the event might incite violence.

She said that gun owners don’t want to be labeled as “white rednecks.”

“They tried to label 2A people before they even got there, and the 2A people projected themselves in a professional manner,” Shick said.

Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, 33rd District, said rally participants were patriotic and exhibited “a unity of purpose.” He described the crowd size as unprecedented, adding that he met people who came to the rally all the way from Texas, Arkansas and Colorado.

Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, 10th District, said that despite some “nasty comments” directed at legislators who favor more gun control legislation, the rally was peaceful.

“People were mostly polite,” Gooditis said. “Yes, people get excited and yell things in the megaphones and some of the signs are rude and meant to scare and intimidate, but there are always going to be rude signs at any protest. So this was basically a huge, peaceful rally.”

Gooditis said she was proud of the rally participants and law enforcement. Although many gun-rights activists disagreed with Northam’s decision to declare a state of emergency and ban firearms and other weapons from the Capitol grounds during the event, Gooditis thinks it was the right call. Some feared violence could break out like it did at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

Prior to Monday’s rally, 91 of Virginia’s 95 counties, 15 of its 38 independent cities and 33 towns had adopted resolutions in support of Second Amendment rights. Clarke County and Berryville were among them, in addition to Frederick County.

LaRock, who opposes additional gun control measures, said legislators need to keep the Second Amendment movement in mind when voting on gun control bills.

“They better take notice of this,” LaRock said. “They’d have to be almost tone-deaf or completely arrogant to not realize that people are rejecting these ideas and proposed bills.”

The proposed legislation includes a ban on assault-style weapons, universal background checks for gun purchases, and “red flag laws” that would enable authorities to temporarily take guns from people they believe are a danger to themselves or others.

Gooditis said she doesn’t support taking assault-style weapons from people who already own them, with the exception of red flag laws.

“People think that we are not listening, that the Democrats are not listening,” Gooditis said. “They are wrong. Democrats are listening, they are talking. We are trying to figure out the best and fairest way to do things that will protect the greatest number of people. We really do listen and we really do hear. So it’s a misconception if people think they are not being heard.”

Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, has introduced House HB 961, which would prohibit the sale, transport and possession of assault firearms, certain firearm magazines, silencers and trigger activators. A violation is a Class 6 felony. The bill states that anyone who legally owns an assault firearm on July 1, 2020, may retain possession if they have a permit from the Department of State Police.

The state Senate during the current legislative session has already passed various bills, including SB 70, which establishes mandatory background checks for any transfer of firearms, including private sales. Senate Bill 69 and Senate Bill 35 also passed. SB 69 would limit citizens to one handgun purchase within any 30-day period, with exemptions for those with valid Virginia concealed handgun permits, law enforcement and those replacing lost or stolen handguns. Senate Bill 35 gives local governments the authority to ban the possession of firearms in public spaces during events that require a permit. The legislation still needs to be considered by the House of Delegates.

Del. Chris Collins, R-Frederick County, 29th District, said he thinks rally participants were “very successful in getting their message across” and that it may sway some legislators.

“You don’t realize how important this is to people until people make the trek in below-freezing weather in great numbers to demonstrate this is something important to them,” Collins said.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

(27) comments

Mr Incredible

At least 50,000 people showed up in Richmond. 50,000 gun owners of all sexes, creeds, religions, colors. All those "scary" assault rifles all in one place, and not one arrest. Maybe the democrats should consider that law abiding citizens aren't the problem.

Mr Incredible

Perhaps the "perception" that democrats don't listen to the people come from the fact that representatives like delegate Gooditus don't answer their emails. nor reply to questions posted on facebook posts that she makes. Or maybe it's because she posts for town hall meetings and they cancels them. or cancels appointments with constituents on Lobby Day. Funny how republican lawmakers could come out and address the crowd, but none of the democrats could be bothered to come out.

TonyR

Richmond was the safest city because the Governor took control. While the cosplay was rampant in Richmond the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) is under vicious attack from AG Barr who is trying to force Apple and other tech companies into giving the feds a backdoor to read every one of your emails and texts and to listen in on all of your cell conversations and to have access to your photos and contacts list. I have not heard a peep out of the gun guys on this attack on our 'rights'. Crickets.

Admiral Emluk of Borbistan

I am against all violations of our Constitutional rights, be they from the left or the right. As for cosplay, Tony, you go on ahead and be that furry that dwells within you.

Mr Incredible

The Guvna didn't take control of a **** thing, He put up fences then hid. The rally was peaceful because that's the way WE wanted it. As for Barr and Apple, he asked that the phone of a muslim terrorist be opened, and the lefties at Apple won't do it. How very American

jwbbud

many people were naive and thought the 2A was fully protected by the constitution, they assumed wrong. Many court cases, SCOTUS has not agreed to hear leaving the decision by the lower court to stand. Look at Maryland, Look at New Jersey...You can than the 4th Circuit for that. Now since were in the 4th circuit, any law passed will stand unless SCOTUS will finally agree to hear them.

Admiral Emluk of Borbistan

As our regular demokrat commentators here show clearly every single day, the demokrats and their lackeys never listen...ever. Why, they are so smart that they know what is best for everyone! Why should they listen to "deplorables" (anyone who doesn't walk the left wing party line)? When they win elections, they can force through any tripe they want for "our good." When they lose, well, obviously someone cheated...them Rooshans must have interfered.This is what history teaches us.

slowe

Democrats are listening the majority of voters who voted them into office. Democrats are listening to the innocent dead children and adults killed by gun violence , to the families of those victims, who will never see their children grow up, or who lost a loved one by gun violence. They are listening and enacting REASONABLE gun control measures. There is not wolf - no one is going to confiscate your guns (except perhaps your military style, assault, mass murdering, machine guns - I hope). Chill out, Paranoia is not a good look for anyone. Again, there is not wolf......

caris31

NO!! Democrats don't get to stand on the graves of gun violence victims touting their righteousness while simultaneously supporting the right to kill unborn and born children. You can't have it both ways and you've clearly made your choice about the sanctity of life as you see it. As far as gun owners are concerned, millions of law-abiding gun owners have gone their entire lives without killing anyone, but Democrats want to take their rights away, instead of focusing their efforts on the criminals that do kill; regardless of the tool they utilize.

Mr Incredible

Liberal hypocrisy knows no bounds. This is the same party that will fight like dogs to keep some death row inmate from getting the needle, but have no problem flushing a baby.

anon

If you use birth control you cannot be against abortion. If you do not use any kind of birth control and are against abortion I respect your belief. I do not agree with it but I respect you. I doubt there are that many folks that do not use birth control and are against abortion.

ShruggingAtlas

I agree with anon on this. You can't be against abortion and pro-contraception. Contraception cheapens sex and devalues women, and many types of them cause death to humans in the embryonic stage of their lives. Since many of them use synthetic forms of estrogen to "fool" the female body into thinking it's pregnant, the increased amounts of those imitator hormones also increases the risk of cancer.

Rattler

We already have reasonable gun control measures. Enfore those before adding new ones. Slowe as I've said before criminals and sickos do not care about laws enen if there are hundreds of them. Also ar style rifles ate not machine guns. Its already illegal to own fully automatic weapons for john q public. These laws will not change anything except for legal gun owners. Criminals will still get their guns and kill.

Mr Incredible

Beto O'rourke disagrees. Democrats, the party that once swore they weren't coming for your guns, aren't even trying to hide it any more

anon

I am a gun owner and in favor of reasonable gun control. Beto is an idiot.

slowe

“To see that many armed militia in one spot ...”. They are NOT a malitia! They are a group of individuals, in organized, in-regulated, and independent. They are not “a well regulated malitia” as proscribed in the Second Amendment.

jwbbud

I dont see militia defined, the same way you dont see 2A rights defined?! If African americans had not resisted things would never change. I didnt see the election of democrats to the state as a mandate for gun control. Gooditis will be a one hit wonder, she wont be back in 2 years after this.

Mr Incredible

Who do you think make up the militia? That's right, the citizens

Admiral Emluk of Borbistan

The militia are the citizens. No nation on earth has ever had to put in its founding documents the right of its armed forces to bear arms, as I've said before (but which you and others et al refuse to understand) is that the 2nd amendment is obviously, then, talking about something other than the armed forces you think of.

Conservative

It's funny how you will jump all over peace-loving gun owners and comment til your face turns blue, but not one peep from you about the MLK remembrance at SU in today's paper. Do us all a favor, move to Thailand where you'll feel much more comfortable with people who make the same choices as you.

anon

I am all in favor of unregulated gun control circa the 1770s; Single shot rifles that took a minute to reload.

The founders wrote the Constitution with that in mind. I swear if the Constitution were written today they would support weapons of mass destruction in every home.

ShruggingAtlas

Anon, your argument is a non-sequitur. What next, are you going to say that you're in favor of free speech as long as we stick to quill pens and newspapers? The Founders wrote and ratified that amendment knowing that a govt with all the weapons would become a tyranny, so they wanted to prevent the federal govt from restricting a states ability to defend itself. A "well-regulated" militia is regular people, citizens of states that agreed to a compact to establish a "more perfect union".

Rattler

Mr. Levine... they are not silencers they are suppressors. Trigger activators, ie bumpstocks are already illegal. People , except criminals, already passed background checks. Why a special permit??? Looking for revenue??. The state police have enough to do. Also to acquire a suppressor legally you already have to jump through hoops, pay fees to buy and yearly fees on top of that. This bill is a crock of b.....t

GreatScott

“People think that we are not listening, that the Democrats are not listening,” Gooditis said. “They are wrong. Democrats are listening, they are talking."

Wendy, with all due respect, Democrats are listening, but they are listening to the progressives. You are supposed to be a representative of the all the people, not just the ones you agree with. So far, Wendy, you have not represented me one single time since you got elected.

Mr Incredible

That's what happens when you take money from Michael Bloomberg. He ain't giving it away for free, he expects the people he's giving it to to sit up and do tricks

trunuyawkr

To be fair, the "sit up and do tricks" expectation is had by ALL politicians on ALL sides of the aisle.... Hence PACs and Super PACs.

ShruggingAtlas

Great point tru, we have allowed our govts to become beholden to special interests on both sides, throwing out common sense and decency.

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