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Richmond Rallies on Guns

Hundreds of people rallied in Richmond yesterday – some calling for easier access to guns, while others argued for greater gun control.  Sandy Hausman was on hand and filed this report.

The weather was cold, the rhetoric hot as supporters and opponents of gun control rallied on Capitol Square.  The Virginia Citizens Defense League is outraged by recent limits imposed by Governor McAuliffe.  It’s president is Philip Van Cleave.   

“We’ve got Al Quaida out there, and you’ve got ISIS wanting to attack," he told a crowd of gun rights advocates."We’ve got criminals doing things.  The American people don’t want to be disarmed.”

A spate of Republican politicians lined up to make the case against newly enacted restrictions announced by Attorney General Mark Herring.  Republican Delegate Rob Bell, who’s running to replace Herring told the crowd that, " No one has ever held that office who is more hostile to the ability of Virginia citizens to defend themselves than Herring.”

And Congressman David Brat, a former college professor, led the crowd through his analysis of the Second Amendment.

“It doesn’t say the government gives you a right to guns.  It says your right shall not be infringed.  So why did the founders, the geniuses who created all this, why did they say your right should not be infringed?  Because that’s a deep way of saying that that right comes from where? God!  Nature and nature’s god.”

Inside the capitol, debate had begun on one of more than 100 bills involving guns.  Senator Dick Saslaw, a Democrat, attacked the mottos of those who want unfettered access to firearms.

"You hear a lot of talk about a good guy with a gun is going to stop a bad guy with a gun," he said.  "There’s 289 million guns outstanding in the civilian population today.  You would think that somewhere, somehow that good guy with a gun would stop that bad guy with a gun."

One problem, he argued, is that those who use guns in crowded situations risk wounding or killing innocent people – putting them at risk for criminal charges and lawsuits.

“This may come as a shock to some people," he joked. “The Lone Ranger is dead.  So is Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry – the guys who shot guns out of the hands of the bad guy. They’re dead.”

And he mocked the expression that guns don’t kill people.

“I have fired an M-1.  I have fired an M-16.  I have fired a 155 howitzer.  I’ve crawled under a machine gun and fired a flame thrower.  By the way, you can now buy a flame thrower online, and we don’t want to outlaw that, because when we do outlaw that, only the outlaws will have flamethrowers, and everybody also knows that flamethrowers don’t burn people.  People burn people.”

Later, supporters of gun control heard from two recent victims of a shooting on live television.  The parents of reporter Allison Parker said lawmakers had passed a resolution to honor their daughter, but that was not enough.

“If you and your colleagues truly want to honor Allison, you’ll do more than attach your name to a resolution. You’ll support common sense gun legislation.”

Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, a pediatrician, said the state had a duty to protect children who are 12 times more likely to be shot in this country than kids who live in 25 other industrialized nations.

“This year there will be more deaths from guns in the Commonwealth of Virginia than there will be from motor vehicle accidents," he said. "When there were deaths from motor vehicle accidents we took charge, and we made changes. We’ve had a problem with medications that get into the hands of children, and now we have special safety caps for medicine.  Why can't we do that for guns ?  Why can’t we keep a loaded gun away from our children.”

And Governor Terry McAuliffe recalled a campaign debate in Blacksburg, where the former attorney general Ken Cucinelli mocked him for getting a grade of F from the National Rifle Association.

“And I said, ‘Let me tell you something.  We are standing here at Virginia Tech where we had the worst campus massacre in the history of the United States of America.’  I then pointed to the front row, and I said, ‘You see that young men in the first row?  Colin Goddard was shot four times.  Don’t you dare talk to me about a letter grade from the NRA.’ So folks, are you ready to fight?  Well then let’s go get them.  Tell them we need common sense gone legislation here!”

Despite a day of strong rhetoric and lobbying by constituents, observers doubt much will change when it comes to guns in Virginia.  Republicans could vote to overturn the governor’s order banning firearms in state buildings and canceling reciprocity with other states when it comes to permits for carrying a concealed weapon.  McAuliffe has vowed to veto such measures if he feels they threaten public safety.