Second Amendment groups heading a planned protest and rally of potentially 130,000 supporters Monday in Richmond, Virginia, are warning members to be on the lookout for agitators “invited” by gun control advocates to stir up violence and discredit their effort.
In an alert sent by one of the groups leading the “lobbying day” effort, supporters were advised to look the other way should counterprotesters challenge them.
“If someone tries to provoke you, smile and walk away. There is probably someone secretly recording the interaction, with the intent of capturing some kind of inappropriate reaction on your part. Don’t take the bait. It’s not worth the bad press,” said the alert from the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which has conducted annual lobby day events peacefully since 2002.
On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam declared an emergency around the state capital for the Monday event, declaring that there “are considered credible threats” of violence, but he didn’t give details. As a result, guns are banned in the area, even by those who have legal concealed carry permits.
VCDL and others, however, said that they have heard of no threats, especially by gun owners, and suggested the governor was instigating leftist protesters. It is also eyeing a challenge to Northam’s temporary ban.
“The Democrats are afraid of the voters and want to portray this peaceful assembly of law-abiding gun owners in the worst possible way. They would love for it to degenerate to ‘violence, rioting, and insurrection’ in order to smear gun owners. Has the Democrat leadership actually invited violent groups to attend for the purpose of disrupting our peaceful assembly?” said the alert.
“The eyes of the nation and the world are on Virginia and VCDL right now and we must show them that gun owners are not the problem. Lead by example. We have been, and continue to be, in close contact with several law enforcement agencies and will keep them informed of all potential threats that we become aware of. Law enforcement will be in abundance at the event, both uniformed and plain clothes, to provide security and we are sincerely appreciative of their efforts to keep everyone as safe as possible,” it added.
In his statement, Northam singled out VCDL and noted the peaceful protest held Monday by the National Rifle Association during its lobbying day. On that day, a Senate committee approved several gun control measures opposed by gun owners, VCDL, Gun Owners of America, and the NRA.
“I thank the NRA for hosting a peaceful event. Now, I call on the Virginia Citizens Defense League and its members to follow the NRA’s example, and make your event a peaceful display too as you have done in the past. Please do not dishonor Virginia or your cause,” he said.
Some media has also played up unsubstantiated reports of potential violence, pointing the finger at pro-gun supporters.
The gun groups, however, have for weeks been urging members to protest calmly, and they point to the meetings held in county and city halls over the past two months that have attracted over 100,000 to peacefully support the gun “sanctuary” movement and votes that 130 communities have approved.
Said VCDL, “Every year since 2002, VCDL has come to the General Assembly to peacefully assemble and lobby our elected officials on Martin Luther King Day. The only difference this year is that the crowd size is expected to be significantly larger due to the Democrat leadership’s promise to pass draconian gun control laws that would adversely affect law-abiding citizens while having minimal impact on criminals.”