ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - While a caravan of pro-gun lobbyists made its way through Richmond for Lobby Day 2021 on Monday, proponents of stricter gun laws were lobbying online.
Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring joined the call, too, pledging support for common sense gun legislation.
The 29th Annual Virginia Vigil & Advocacy Day to Prevent Gun Violence took to Zoom Monday. Hosted by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, and the Virginia Center for Public Safety, advocates used the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a vehicle for this conversation, urging non-violent, civil action for reform.
Anchoring the call was Lori Hass, the senior director of advocacy for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. She said the event was virtual not just because of COVID-19 but also because of the possibility of violence at the Capitol.
Speakers included pastors and rabbis from the Richmond and Northern Virginia area, as well as youth advocates including Chyna Hodges. Hodges is a sophomore at Thomas Nelson Community College who said she was involved in advocating for gun law reform because she’d lost an older brother, friends, and classmates to gun violence.
“It’s very important to me that we have the funding to do this work, that we know the exact root causes, that we take the time to actually listen to our youth and the community because they have the answers,” she said. “Everything that you’re looking for is right there in the community.”
Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring said while they were pleased with legislation pushed through last year, they still believe there is work to do.
Herring said he’s been busy defending these new laws in court and he’s now concerned with preventing open carry of firearms in polling places.
“It also became clear that there were some holes in Virginia law that needed to be addressed to further protect voters and one of those is that open carry of firearms is permitted at polling places, something that could be easily exploited to intimidate or harass voters,” he stated.
During the second half of the call advocates addressed legislation moving through the General Assembly right now, both bills they support as well as bills they strongly oppose.