By Jeff Hulbert
The NRA road show to fire up citizen activists landed this weekend on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, filling a Moose Lodge bingo hall with more than 250 folks. They were eager to learn the game plan just days before the start of the 2020 legislative session.
The gathering is one of three town halls underway across Virginia in the last 48 hours, all engineered by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.
It is an effort to inspire regular folks to make the trip to the statehouse in Richmond on January 13 to demand an end the Democrat’s latest gun control schemes.
Glen Caroline, an NRA-ILA grassroots political director, told the crowd that the energy on Virginia’s Main Streets is more powerful than all the firearm infringement plans hatched on 5th Avenue in New York City.
We cannot match Michael Bloomberg dollar for dollar. What he doesn’t have is the passion and commitment that NRA members have.
Caroline said that with the NRA being headquartered in Virginia, he and his colleagues have had a front row seat to the Second Amendment fight unfolding in the Old Dominion.
For months and months we have been witnessing the passion and anger about what’s going on.
The setting for the NRA town hall happens to be in the home region of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Accomack County.
It’s located on a peninsula, with a Maryland boundary to the north, and a 17-mile bridge-and-tunnel span at the south end that serves as the only connection for these Eastern Shore residents to Richmond and the rest of the Virginia mainland. It’s a distinctly rural place with four centuries of firearms tradition that has been put on edge by Northam’s “progresssive” plans.
At the bingo hall hosting the overflow crowd, NRA grassroots organizer Glen Caroline was joined by the NRA state political director, Daniel Spiker, along with his boss Todd Adkins from the NRA-ILA headquarters.
The three mapped out the strategy and talking points that the members could take to Richmond for the two crucial weeks after the Virginia Legislature opens on January 8th.
Spiker declared that fight against 2020 gun grabbing—or even confiscation—can be fought at the level of basic economics, suggesting that the infringement ideas of Governor Ralph Northam have too high a price tag for the majority of taxpayers.
“We are going to fight this on cost,” he said, saying it’s important to confront anti-gun Democrats with their funding dilemma: “Are you really going to raise taxes to fund these gun laws?”
With a stack of gun control bills pre-filed and more expected, the NRA reps set aside analysis of individual bills in favor of a message that the most successful citizen lobbying is a constituent visiting a lawmaker in their office, whether in Richmond or at their district headquarters.
Following that, in terms of influence, said the trio, would be personal phone calls to a lawmaker and personally written letters, with emails as the least likely to carry political weight.
Todd Adkins, who made the trip from NRA HQ, told the group that reaching out to friends and neighbors following the town hall meeting was crucial.
Each of us has a circle that we can influence. Our power comes from our grassroots activism, and each of us has that within their own circle. Working together, we can’t be stopped.
Closing out the gathering, the week of January 13th was identified as a key time period for citizen activism at the statehouse. That’s when the hearings on the gun control bills will get underway.
Adkins added that the NRA isn’t sponsoring speaking events or demonstrations outside the legislative buildings in Richmond, but is encouraging citizens to individually make their own plans to visit the lawmakers’ offices to lobby on a day and time that best suits them.
After a question-and-answer period, and after posing for a group photo to close the event, the crowd ducked out into a light rain that was drifting through Accomack County.
Colleen Daley, a military veteran and lifelong resident of the area, said that she had gone to high school with Ralph Northam, who was a local farmhand and a crew member on Chesapeake Bay work boats before setting out on a path that has taken him to the Governor’s mansion.
Shaking her head, Daley wondered aloud about Northam and his politics.
I don’t know where Ralph diverged from us, but he seems to have sold his soul.
Daley says she is planning to be in the Richmond for Lobby Day on the January 20, which will feature thousands—possibly tens of thousands—of people demonstrating for gun rights in the legislative buildings as well as on the capitol grounds.
Daley said the NRA town hall meeting this day was worth the investment of her time.
It was a little bit vague about what is actually going to be in the legislation, but it energizes us to come out and stand for our Second Amendment rights.
Rodney Snyder of Onancock, Virginia was pleased as well.
I got good info today and I am planning to get out there on the 20th.
Snyder said the six-hour round trip to Richmond during the January 13th week highlighted by the NRA was still a possibility, depending on whether he could take off work.
Waiting for the rain to taper off, Charles Etheridge, another county resident said he has committed to citizen lobbying during the legislature’s crucial second week.
My whole family will probably be going on the 13th. I think the 20th is important, too, but the 13th is my primary day.
Two residents, who only gave their names as Paul and James, came from adjoining Northampton County, and said they were glad they came up for the gathering.
James, a longtime NRA member, said he found the NRA presentation impressive, as well as reassuring after a year of negative press about the group.
“We want them to lead the movement, and get it done.”
Paul, a 31-year-old outfitted in a SIG SAUER hooded sweatshirt, said he found the lack of younger people at the town hall somewhat troubling.
I looked around and I think I was the youngest person in the room, maybe three to four people my age.
Invoking the name of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Paul remarked, “The VCDL has so many more people my age.”
It was not the only time the VCDL came up in conversation groups after the town hall.
The VCDL, which has orchestrated its own grassroots pressure campaign on behalf of Virginia gun owners, is the driving force behind a January 20th Lobby Day demonstration that’s expected to occupy all of the statehouse grounds, as well as gridlock the streets in the area.
While the NRA stresses office visits on the days of each person’s choosing, the VCDL is planning to deploy buses statewide to bring folks—Virginians and out-of-state guests—to Richmond as a show of strength that lawmakers will witness by looking out any statehouse window.
That’s not to say the VCDL isn’t invested in the “inside game.”
Its leadership has issued calls for anyone who can make the trip to Richmond the week of the 13th to do so, and to join VCDL lobby teams on the morning of the 20th before gathering for speeches outside.
One explosive issue that will unfold in a matter of days is the Democrats’ threat to end the longtime tradition of firearms carry by citizens onto state capitol grounds, as well as inside the Statehouse.
According to sources with extensive experience in Virginia politics, some sort of state capitol gun ban is now virtually certain because anti-gun Democrats have the votes needed. Less clear is whether jurisdictional issues will allow Democrats to create a gun-free zone all the way to the nearest public street or just a ban inside the capitol buildings.
The Democrats have declared they will seek to enact the widest possible gun ban with a vote on January 8th.
Jeff Hulbert is the founder of Patriot Picket.