Gun Owners Rally in Richmond . . . and the Predictions of Violence Look Like Panic

The crowd in front of the Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond, Va., January 20, 2020. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

The national media did it again.

NBC News: “As gun rights rally looms in Virginia, Richmond residents fear another Charlottesville. Many say they’ll be staying as far away as possible from a demonstration they worry will turn violent.”

Axios: “As Richmond braces for hate, Americans say race relations are getting worse.”

This morning, MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin declared that “right now thousands of gun-rights activists, white nationalists, militia groups” were “all swarming the Virginia state capitol in Richmond.”

The Associated Press: “State officials and U.S. hate-monitoring groups are warning about the potential for violence ahead of a gun-rights rally in Virginia that’s expected to draw a mix of militias, firearms advocates and white supremacists to Richmond.”

As you may have noticed from the lack of breaking news updates, the day brought no violence to Richmond. Police estimated 22,000 attendees, with no reports of arrests or injuries during the rally.

Perhaps the police presence kept everyone on their best behavior. Or perhaps it was the presence of all of those armed citizens. Perhaps the hateful types decided to stay away — or perhaps they were never that likely to show up in significant numbers at all. Governor Ralph Northam enacted unprecedented emergency security measures out of fears that racists will be in attendance. Because if we Virginians know anything, it’s that Ralph Northam would never tolerate anything racist.

One and a half hour after the rally officially ended, one woman was arrested for wearing a mask. According to police, she was warned twice; charged, and then released on her own recognizance. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, quite a few rally attendees wore ski masks; the day was frigid.

The day went, by almost every measure, exactly the way Second Amendment advocates and law-abiding gun owners hoped it would . . . well, by almost every measure. Apparently the leaders of the new Democratic majority in the state legislature think getting 22,000 people to attend a rally outside the capitol on a frigid morning is no big deal:

Democratic lawmakers — including House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw — told AP the rally wouldn’t impact their plans to pass gun-control measures, including universal background checks and a one-handgun-purchase-a-month limit. Democrats say tightening Virginia’s gun laws will make communities safer and help prevent mass shootings like the one last year in Virginia Beach, where a dozen people were killed in a municipal building.

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