Despite media predictions of violence from fringe groups, Monday's gun-rights demonstration in Richmond, Va., saw tens of thousands of attendees peacefully demonstrating for their constitutional rights, Washington Free Beacon staff writer Stephen Gutowski reported.
Demonstrators held signs displaying phrases like, "Gun rights are women's rights," "We will not comply," and "I want gay married couples to be able to protect their marijuana plants with guns." Gutowski, who was on the scene for his Free Beacon-presented YouTube show Range Time, said he was struck by the size of the rally and noted the absence of violence, white supremacist agitation, or even counter-protesters: "All we had were people from Virginia here to support their right to bear arms."
Gutowski captured interviews with attendees eager to discuss why they were out on a brisk Monday morning to lobby the Virginia state legislature. One of those attendees was Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), the group that organized Monday's demonstration.
Van Cleave said the VCDL's goal was to send a signal to the Virginia legislature to "walk away" from the gun issue. Asked which of the gun-control proposals floated by Democrats in the legislature he was most concerned about, Van Cleave pointed to red flag laws and a potential ban on AR-15s.
Another attendee, Mark (who declined to provide his last name), said he was at the rally because gun rights are both a constitutional right and a civil right.
"I love this country. It's about the Second Amendment, it's about our ability to defend ourselves and our loved ones. It's not only a constitutional rights issue but it's also a civil rights issue," he told Gutowski.
"For me, as an African American on MLK Day, it's critically important that we preserve the ability to defend ourselves and our loved ones," he added.
Gutowski's experience contrasted strongly with descriptions of the rally by the media and members of the Democratic Party. MSNBC host Craig Melvin said that "thousands of gun-rights activists, white nationalists, militia groups" were "swarming the Virginia state capitol in Richmond." The creative director for the Democratic Governors Association retweeted a tweet claiming that legally carrying rifles was "terrorism."