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Washington Post: Advocates for and against gun control to rally in Richmond on Monday Print


© Created: Friday, January 14, 2011 1:14 PM

It's an annual pilgrimage: Advocacy groups take advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday to come to Richmond to rally supporters and meet with legislators.

The gun-rights and gun-control crowds are two of a large number such groups set to hold their lobby days Monday, with citizens from around the state crowding the hallways of the General Assembly Building and the visitors gallery of the State Capitol. A historic bell tower just down a hill from the Capitol -- a traditional spot for rallies -- is booked through the day.

But the debate this year will be especially emotionally charged, coming just over a week after the shooting of 20 people, including a U.S. congresswoman and a federal judge, at a political event in Arizona.

In the morning, the bell tower will be the spot for a rally by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a group that supports gun rights. The group's rallies are often attended by gun owners who openly carry holstered weapons.

Capitol rules allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns into the General Assembly Building and Capitol building. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Fairfax) has filed a bill that would ban firearms in the two legislative buildings--a likely target of ire from the VCDL. The first-term delegate says he was taken aback the first time he road the elevator with a man wearing a handgun strapped to his leg.

In the afternoon, members of the Virginia Center for Public Safety, Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws, and the Virginia Chapters of the Million Mom March will hold a prayer vigil and "lie-in" at the same bell tower to urge tighter gun laws in Virginia. Among their top priorities is changing a law that allows some weapons to be sold without background checks at gun shows.

In between the two, the Virginia 10th Amendment Revolution -- a coalition of several groups, including the Virginia Tea Party Patriots -- will rally at the bell tower. The group is pushing a legislative package that includes a bill endorsing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow all federal laws and regulations to be repealed if two-thirds of state legislatures agreed.