Estimates vary on the expected turnout for the January 20 gun rights lobbying event

January 10, 2020
Accomack County Second Amendment Status

Pictured: 2nd Amendment supporters who showed up to Accomack County’s Board of Supervisors meeting where a 2nd Amendment Resolution, but not sanctuary status, was approved on Wednesday, December 18, 2019.

Estimates on the expected attendance at the gun rally lobbying event in Richmond on January 20 vary greatly.  Estimates range from 20,000 to as many as 100,000.  But the organizer behind the pro-gun rally told WTOP says there is nothing menacing about it and he doesn’t expect any problems. 

Phillip Van Cleave, President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which sponsors the annual event, disputes press reports that this will be an armed event.  “It’s merely a lobby day.  It’s just speakers,” he said. “We do this every year and we’ve never had any problems.” Van Cleave denied that his group is actively encouraging participants to carry guns, saying it has actually discouraged people from carrying long guns in particular.

“We never say bring your guns to anything,” he said. “We leave carrying up to the individual. We don’t tell them what to do.” Van Cleave said that he is working closely with the Capitol Police, the Virginia State Police and the Richmond Police Department but the annual rally has generated security concerns as it is expected to be much larger this year with the gun debate raging across Virginia.  Several local gun and hunting clubs have indicated they will send representatives to attend the rally.

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Approximately 120 Virginia towns and counties have either declared themselves as second amendment sanctuary jurisdictions or have adopted resolutions supporting second amendment gun rights. The state’s largest city, Virginia Beach, the site of a mass shooting last May that triggered the gun law debate, declared itself a second amendment sanctuary city Monday night.

Locally, Accomack and Northampton County both passed resolutions affirming strong support of the right to bear arms as outlined in both the United States and Virginia constitutions, but stopped short of declaring sanctuary status. The Towns of Exmore and Chincoteague both adopted sanctuary status.

Democrats want to adopt universal background checks, red flag laws that will permit confiscation if a gun owner who is deemed dangerous to himself or others and an assault weapon ban.

Van Cleave said, “We want the government to keep its hands off our ability to protect ourselves. People are really upset.”

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