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Protests Strike Virginia over Second Amendment Contentions

This past Monday in Richmond, Virginia, thousands of gun owners attended Virginia’s capitol in response to restrictive firearms bills per the state legislature. The bulletproof vests and openly carried 50-caliber rifles were not few nor far between as the crowds descended on the commonwealth’s capital. The rally commenced early on Monday, January the 20th, which also happened to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day, prompting uneasy feelings in the governor’s office. 

Prior to the event, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam placed the capital city under a state of emergency citing fears of actions per out of state groups and militia. Northam also claimed threats of violence similar to those of the Charlottesville riots in 2017 led him to level these measures. 

Despite heated contentions, the event remained mostly peaceful, with few counter-protestors outside. Attendance was estimated to have hosted 6,000 people inside Capitol square, and another 16,000 outside the gates

Governor Northam proposed gun control measures as being the paramount topics in his state of the commonwealth address, prompting pushback from many conservative groups both in state and out. After the Virginia Beach shooting in a government facility that occurred last May, pressure to propose more tangible gun control legislation built upon Northam this year. Among the specific measures passed, universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, bump stocks, and high-capacity magazines were all matters to be placed on the table. 

Many pro-second-amendment groups drove up to visit from other states ranging from Florida to New York, claiming that the increasingly prohibitive gun laws of their home states will soon impede the rights of Virginia’s citizens. From inside the state, a myriad of local officials also showed up to waive in disagreement with their state government, as did Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughan. Sheriff Vaughan has offered his county to be a second-amendment safe-haven of sorts and looks to refuse imposition of the new legislation after its passage. 

The controversial governor has prompted his own external controversy as he admitted last February to wearing blackface with someone wearing Ku Klux Klan robes on a picture in his medical school yearbook. Many have come to distrust the governor on grounds that he may hold racist beliefs and post-admission, and the governor ignored the option of stepping down after the official reports surfaced. 

After the state elections in 2019, Democrats gained control of both houses of the legislature and the executive cabinet for the state, prompting less friction for progressive bill passage. As Democratic legislators utilize the expedited process, dissatisfied citizens have made their voices heard to the Virginia state government and the shifting dynamics of the state may prove to be crucial in the 2020 elections, especially under the Trump administration’s staunch support of lowering firearm regulations. 

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Taylor Walker is a sophomore at Florida State University studying Political Science and Communications. When not found stressing out in a library study room, she can be found watching conspiracy theory documentaries, petting every dog she sees on the campus green, and rolling her eyes at state congressmen in committee meetings. She also works to promote student philanthropy on campus and hopes to one day pursue her dream as a Congresswoman.