The National Rifle Association said Thursday it will work with gun owners to swamp the first hearing of the Virginia Senate committee considering new gun bans in an effort to beat back the gun-control proposals from Governor Ralph Northam (D.).
NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen told the Washington Free Beacon that the gun-rights group is mobilizing its members to appear at the first meeting of the Virginia Senate's Courts of Justice on Jan. 13. The organization hopes that pressure from constituents will make newly elected Democrats, who helped the party capture control of the state legislature, think twice about supporting gun bans pursued by the state's Democratic governor. Those new Democrats, who were silent on gun bans during the election, hold the key to how far the two-vote Democratic majority in the state Senate and the five-vote majority in the House of Delegates go with new gun laws.
If gun-rights supporters can convince just a handful of Democrats to oppose a new gun-control measure, it will not become law. Mortensen said the Courts of Justice committee is the first stop for those new gun-control proposals, and gun owners in the state need to show their opposition to those bills face-to-face.
"That's the first committee of jurisdiction on all the Northam gun control," Mortensen told the Free Beacon. "We want to make sure that our members and supporters are in Richmond at that committee hearing on that day so that their voices are heard. It's critical that our members are there early in the session to make the biggest impact in order to stop these gun bills from moving forward."
The lobbying effort will be the culmination of early-stage efforts by the gun-rights group to motivate its supporters in Virginia. The NRA will hold town halls throughout the state this weekend and is sending representatives to the Richmond gun show, which is held on Saturday and Sunday. It will also hold a press conference with supportive legislators Jan. 13. Mortensen said the lobbying effort is part of a strategy to resist gun-control bills from the earliest possible point until the legislature adjourns in March.
"The NRA is focused on encouraging our members and supporters to be active and engaged with their legislators from the first day of the session to the last," Mortensen said. "The NRA will have a strong presence at the Capitol throughout the legislative session but we know it's the voice and the presence of our members that carry the most weight with lawmakers."
The NRA's efforts at the Courts of Justice will be the first organized gun-rights event after the legislature is sworn in on Jan. 8 and the first in the wake of more than 90 percent of Virginia counties adopting Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. Gun-rights supporters are hoping to harness the grassroots turnout seen at local government meetings into lobbying efforts at the statehouse. A week after the NRA lobby event, the Virginia Citizens Defense League will hold a rally at the statehouse with 10,000 or more gun-rights supporters expected to attend.
Mortensen said the NRA has thus far been encouraged by the grassroots efforts of gun owners.
"We know that NRA members are active and engaged in grassroots activism," she said. "And they may be members of several different groups. This gives them additional opportunities to engage in grassroots activism and that is all positive. The more people out there and sharing the message, that's a win."