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Gun rights advocates flood Capitol as gun control bills advance

The National Rifle Association and hundreds of Second Amendment supporters flocked Monday to the State Capitol, voicing their opposition to proposed gun control bills in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

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By Chip Lauterbach

The National Rifle Association and hundreds of Second Amendment supporters flocked Monday to the State Capitol, voicing their opposition to proposed gun control bills in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Gun rights advocates, many donning blue T-shirts, filled legislative offices to speak directly with lawmakers. A group of over 25 squared off outside the Capitol with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, directly venting their frustration over the gun bills.

Several attendants asked Fairfax why Democrats were pushing legislation that would potentially criminalize thousands of Virginians who had done nothing wrong.

Fairfax said that he and the governor are reaching out to all Virginians and want to create “an open dialogue” between lawmakers and citizens to better address the concerns across the commonwealth.

Gun rights advocates expressed opposition to Senate Bill 16, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, which would have prohibited the sale and transport of assault firearms and certain types of firearm magazines.

Saslaw withdrew the legislation Monday. However, House Bill 961, introduced by Del. Mark Levine D- Alexandria, is seen by many Second Amendment supporters as worse than Saslaw’s original bill. Levine’s bill would prohibit the sale and transport of assault firearms, certain firearm magazines, silencers, and trigger activators, as well as outlines penalties.

Critics say the bill expands what constitutes an “assault firearm.” Opponents say the bill would ban the usage of almost all common rifles, even though rifles have been rarely used in crimes committed in the commonwealth.

Sam Edwards, a Virginia resident and NRA supporter, said that in 2018, fewer murders were committed by “long guns of any kind” than were committed by handgun. He cited a 2018 report by the FBI breaking down weapons used by type in crimes by state. The data from that report show eight murders were committed with rifles, five by shotguns, 141 by handguns and 143 by “firearms type unknown.”

“This bill will criminalize almost 3 million Virginia gun owners, it’s not about stopping crime, it’s all about control,” Edwards said.

Levine’s bill includes language that any person who legally owns an assault firearm, large-capacity firearm magazine, silencer, or trigger activator on July 1, 2020, may retain possession until Jan. 1, 2021, unless they have the required permitting from state police allowing them to keep it after that date.

Despite Second Amendment supporters’ efforts to reach lawmakers, four gun control bills reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, all on 9-5  party line votes.

The bills that reported out of committee include SB 70, which requires a universal background check when people sell firearms. SB 69 limits handgun purchases to one a month, while SB 35 allows localities to ban firearms in a public space during a permitted event. SB 240 allows authorities to take away the firearms of someone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others, a measure known as a red flag law.

A small local contingent with the national group Moms Demand Action showed up in support of stricter gun-control legislation.

“It used to be that if you talked about gun rights, then you wouldn’t get elected, well now it was the top polling issues for voters leaving the polls,” said Karen Vaught a volunteer with Moms Demand Action. “They voted for gun sense, and they got gun sense.”

Some Second Amendment supporters voiced their displeasure with the NRA, citing the perceived silence from the organization in the aftermath of the 2019 election, even though it is headquartered in Fairfax.

“There’s hardly been a peep out of the NRA, I’ve been shocked by their lack of response,” said Ed Sugg of Loudoun County. “Everyone here, this is all grassroots-driven, and there’s a local organization the VCDL [Virginia Citizens Defense League] that has been 50 times more active than the NRA.”

The NRA responded to some of these claims during a press conference that involved members of the Virginia House Republican Caucus and D.J. Spiker, the Virginia director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

“I would disagree that we have been silent, I think the better word would be strategic,” said Spiker. “We have behind the scenes meetings going on, we’re meeting with our members and engaging with our members.”

Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, said he was happy to see so many citizens show support for gun rights and to oppose Democratic-sponsored legislation.

“For years all we were told was that nobody wants to take your guns, all anybody wanted was some common sense regulations,” Freitas said, “And then the moment they took control, we see gun confiscation bills, we see the criminalization of otherwise law abiding citizens who haven’t hurt anybody.”

Freitas said he is frustrated to see what is going on with the Democratic majority, and the issue isn’t just about guns, but civil liberties.

“It’s been no surprise that you have this grassroots response to all of this,” he said.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Governor Ralph Northam, First Lady Pam Northam both test positive for COVID-19

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pam Northam have both tested positive for coronavirus after coming in close contact with a staffer who was showing symptoms. The First Lady is experiencing mild symptoms, according to a release, while the Governor remains asymptomatic.

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pam Northam have both tested positive for coronavirus after coming in close contact with a staffer who was showing symptoms. The First Lady is experiencing mild symptoms, according to a release, while the Governor remains asymptomatic.

From the Governor’s Office:

On Wednesday evening, Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam were notified that a member of the Governor’s official residence staff, who works closely within the couple’s living quarters, had developed symptoms and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Both the Governor and First Lady received PCR nasal swab tests yesterday afternoon, and both tested positive. Governor Northam is experiencing no symptoms. First Lady Pamela Northam is currently experiencing mild symptoms. Both remain in good spirits.

Consistent with guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the Governor and First Lady will isolate for the next 10 days and evaluate their symptoms. The Governor is in constant contact with his cabinet and staff and will fulfill his duties from the Executive Mansion.

“As I’ve been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious,” said Governor Northam. “The safety and health of our staff and close contacts is of utmost importance to Pam and me, and we are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that everyone is well taken care of. We are grateful for your thoughts and support, but the best thing you can do for us—and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians—is to take this seriously.”

The Governor and First Lady are working closely with VDH and the Richmond Heath Department to trace their close contacts. The Executive Mansion and Patrick Henry office building will be closed for deep cleaning this morning. The work of the Governor’s office continues remotely and uninterrupted.

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Downtown

Dominion Energy Christmas Parade Marching Online this Year

The 37th annual Dominion Energy Christmas Parade will shift to a television-only Christmas special.

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Due to the unprecedented circumstances this year and the responsibility to make the safest decision for our community, the 37th annual Dominion Energy Christmas Parade will shift to a television-only Christmas special! While we will miss seeing everyone on streets this year, we are so excited about the opportunity to bring Richmond’s favorite holiday tradition to you in the comfort of your own home!

Tune in to WTVR CBS 6 News on Saturday, December 5 at 10 am to watch all-new performances from your favorite entertainment groups, heart-warming stories focused on celebrating our Richmond community, “best of” clips from past parades featuring giant helium balloons and colorful floats, and even a special appearance by Legendary Santa himself! You will not want to miss the must-see television event of the holiday season! #RVAparade2020

NOTE TO PARADE PARTICIPANTS: Spots in this year’s Christmas special are limited. Please stay tuned for more information via email next week.

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The Valentine’s popular Controversy/History series returns to address 2020’s impact

The Valentine’s popular conversation series will return virtually on Tuesday, October 6, co-hosted by Valentine Director Bill Martin and Coffee with Strangers host Kelli Lemon. The free, five-event series will focus on the evolving impacts of 2020, a year full of unexpected challenges and uncomfortable conversations, all amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and massive social change.

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The Valentine’s popular conversation series will return virtually on Tuesday, October 6, co-hosted by Valentine Director Bill Martin and Coffee with Strangers host Kelli Lemon. The free, five-event series will focus on the evolving impacts of 2020, a year full of unexpected challenges and uncomfortable conversations, all amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and massive social change.

“The Richmond community that entered 2020 is not the same community we find ourselves a part of today,” Valentine Director Martin said. “2020 has truly been a year of historic change, and it only makes sense to use our conversation series Controversy/History to examine those changes, how they have impacted the people of the Richmond Region and what we can do as a community to move forward together.”

Each virtual event will include an exciting lineup of guest speakers discussing contemporary issues and how 2020 has either upended or reinforced Richmond’s history, followed by questions from the audience and action steps for those inspired to get involved.

Here is a complete list of dates and topics:

October 6, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Voting

November 3, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Mental Health

December 1, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Business

January 5, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2021 and Education

February 2, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2021 and Activism

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