Hundreds of people, some of them armed, were in Richmond Tuesday - hoping to sway lawmakers toward voting for or against further regulation of guns.
The 21st annual vigil for victims of gun violence began with funereal music from a lone bagpiper and was plagued by a series of problems. After a microphone was put in place and a crowd of about 500 had gathered, state police announced they were blocking a sidewalk and would have to move. Then, organizer Andy Goddard attempted to speak, but audio problems kept many from hearing his remarks, and those of Attorney General Mark Herring.
Then, police informed the organizers that audience members carrying flags or placards would have to get rid of their sticks.
But the biggest problem of all for advocates of this cause towered nearby. The deeply divided state legislature seems unlikely to make any change, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans holding the House. You might think, for example, that Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Henry Marsh, would be a shoo-in. It’s also known as Brendon’s law, in honor of a 7-year-old boy killed in Chesterfield County by a random gunshot.
The law would establish strict penalties for shots fired in celebration, but Rebecca Caffrey, who worked with Brendon Mackey’s family to get a bill thru the legislature, says she’s not sure it will pass.
Likewise, a measure to keep people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing a weapon for five years is in danger. Organizers of a rally in support of unfettered gun ownership thought it ridiculous that someone could lose their second amendment rights for slapping their spouse around.
Phillip Van Cleve, President of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, addressed a crowd of about 200 … some of them carrying guns. Caitlin Smith, of Henrico County, strapped a Smith and Wesson to her hip and said no gun control measures could stop tragic mass shootings.
But State Senator Don McEachin told supporters of gun control that polls show huge support for background checks and other measures designed to keep guns away from dangerous people.
Luisa Caro agrees. A Northern Virginia attorney, she joined a grassroots group called Moms Demand Action and brought her daughter Carolina to the event.
She admitted the odds of getting stronger gun control passed this year were not good, but like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers - who had a profound effect over time, Caro said she was prepared for the long haul. Organizer Andy Goddard said he hoped action would come sooner rather than later, since lives are at stake.
His supporters wore yellow badges that read, “Background Checks Save Lives,” in contrast to the orange badges worn by gun rights advocates that read “Guns Save Lives.”