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Traditional Gun Divisions Show Up in MLK Day Protest in Richmond

At the Virginia General Assembly, a holiday to recognize the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. — the civil rights icon slain by an assassin’s bullet — has in recent years become an open-air debate about gun rights and gun violence, the Washington Post reports. It coincides with “Lobby Day,” when residents are encouraged to visit their lawmakers in Richmond. With Democrats winning a majority in the House last fall and preserving their majority in the Senate, the number of gun control bills being introduced has increased — including measures to ban assault-style weapons and prohibit firearms in mental health facilities and restaurants that serve alcohol.

Philip Van Cleave, president of Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun advocacy group, assembled a few hundred gun rights advocates Monday on a frigid Capitol Square — with a secure bus parked nearby to stash their weapons. Firearms have been prohibited in the square since 2021, a year after thousands of gun rights advocates from around the country swamped downtown Richmond with a massive protest against gun control. Gun-control advocates also gathered. "So often (King's) words are used by politicians … who stand in direct opposition to his beliefs or refused to take on the mantle of leadership toward racial inequality or toward income inequality or toward making sure our communities are safer," House Speaker Don L. Scott, a Democrat, told the crowd, as he argued that more guns do not make communities safe.


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