January 16, 2024
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BY SARAH RANKIN

Updated 5:53 PM EST, January 15, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Hundreds of gun-rights supporters held an annual rally at the Virginia Capitol on Monday, calling on the state’s Democratic legislative majority to back down from its push to send GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin bills further restricting firearms.

Democratic legislators have filed a range of measures they say would promote public safety and reduce gun violence, including bills that would ban new assault-style weapons and enact strict new limits on concealed handguns in restaurants and clubs. The measures, which would build on the tightening of gun laws Virginia Democrats enacted in 2020 and 2021 when the party was in full control of state government, would infringe on civil liberties, speakers at Monday’s event on the Capitol grounds said.

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“The legislature is coming whole hog at us and proposing things that are so blatantly unconstitutional it’s not even funny,” John Pierce, an attorney whose practice is focused on gun laws, said at the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s rally.

The showing is unlikely to sway Democrats, who have vowed to make the issue a top priority this session. They have sponsored other gun-related measures that range from a ban on auto sears, which convert semi-automatic handguns into automatic weapons, to measures dealing with safe gun storage.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a well-organized grassroots group, often has the most visible presence.

This year’s crowd of gun-rights activists was far smaller than the tens of thousands who amassed in 2020 to protest plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation.

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