The fight to preserve gun rights in Virginia has now moved to the commonwealth’s town squares as gun owners in the Old Dominion now face localized gun control.
What was once a fight only at the statehouse level, has moved potentially to every one of Virginia’s cities, towns, and counties now that localities have been given permission to enact their own gun bans.
Yesterday, in the first event of its kind in Virginia, 300 to 400 gun rights supporters crowded into the plaza outside of Northern Virginia’s Alexandria City Municipal Center to protest a planned vote by the town council there to ban firearms in their city parks, municipal center and plazas next week.
Although the turnout in Alexandria today was not considered overwhelming, VCDL organizers noted they only had about 48 hours of lead time to turn out gun owners.
The Alexandria council vote for this first-in-the-state local gun ban is set for Saturday, June 20, with the Virginia Citizens Defense League now organizing the turnout for the council session—a place where armed citizens have taken seats in the past with holstered handguns, and even long guns.
Gun rights supporters acknowledge an uphill battle against the decidedly left-leaning city of Alexandria, a picturesque and historic place where one can see the skyline of Washington, DC’s monuments from the shore of the Potomac River that borders Alexandria on the east side.
VCDL President Philip Van Cleave led the call for his members to flood the politicians with emails, phone calls and letters in advance of the June 20 vote. Said Van Cleave:
“We’re hoping by showing bigger turnouts at these things it will discourage some of these localities [elsewhere in the state].”
Van Cleave noted that the historic Virginia Second Amendment sanctuary movement this past winter began with only a handful of gun rights supporters, but evolved into events where several thousand gun owners would gather at municipal centers on a single night.
That movement helped kill an “assault weapons’ ban that came up in the 2020 session.
Speaking to the Alexandria gathering, Van Cleave noted that ‘local preemption’ as it’s called, is a clever ploy by statehouse Democrats to sew confusion and mistrust by letting Virginia’s cities, towns and counties create a patchwork of gun laws that all sides know will be difficult to navigate.
Van Cleave identified it as a ‘tricks and traps’ strategy designed to suppress firearms carry by Virginians and visitors to the Old Dominion.
The power to create gun local bans was pushed by Governor Ralph Northam in the last legislative session, and was passed by the Democrat majority that has controlled Virginia politics at the state level since 2019.
With 190 cities, towns and county entities now eligible to enact their own localized gun bans for their parks, plazas and government buildings, the Democrats have made clear that their strategy is to open 190 new battle fronts against the VCDL and its tens of thousands of members.
The VCDL has responded by standing up “locality watch groups’ to keep an eye on every Virginia voting body. The plan is for these “watchers” to ring the alarm bell at the first sign that a locality is contemplating its own local gun ban strategy so the VCDL can begin to organize opposition.
Van Cleave is confident the VCDL will not be caught flat-footed as the “local preemption” fight ramps up.
“Every locality has got somebody that is looking at what’s going on in their local government to see if anything about guns is coming up, and if it is they notify me and then we will get people together, we’ll have a rally, get people emailing and calling…so we have got to have eyes and ears everywhere.”