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Virginia lawmakers ban guns at state Capitol in first of many expected firearm votes

Virginia lawmakers voted Friday to ban guns in the state Capitol building, the first of what is expected to be many votes on gun control legislation now that Democrats have retaken control of the statehouse for the first time in over 25 years. 

Anyone with a concealed carry permit was previously allowed to bring a gun into the Capitol, although firearms were banned in certain parts of the building, according to The Associated Press.  Democrats have said the new law is a safety measure, and Democratic Governor Ralph Northam previously outlawed guns in some state buildings. 

Virginia Democrats have said they plan to make gun control a priority. An assault weapons ban, red flag laws and universal background checks have all been proposed. In a Facebook video posted Tuesday, Northam insisted "our eight pieces of gun legislation don't threaten the Second Amendment." 

"We have no intention of calling out the National Guard," Northam said. "We're not going to cut off people's electricity. We're not going to go door to door and confiscate people's weapons. We're going to pass common sense legislation that will keep guns out of dangerous hands and keep Virginia safer."  

Republicans are opposed to the new laws and municipalities across the state have declared themselves sanctuary cities for the Second Amendment. Virginia Beach, where 12 people were killed in a shooting rampage at a municipal building in May 2019, earlier this week adopted a resolution declaring itself a "Second Amendment Constitutional City." 

Pro-gun rights advocates are planning on holding a rally at the Capitol in Richmond on January 20. Philip Van Cleave, the president of one of the lead organizers, Virginia Citizens Defense League, labelled reports that suggested it would be an "armed protest" as "totally inaccurate."

"It is merely a lobby day. It's just speakers," Van Cleave told WTOP. "We do this every year and we've never had any problems." 

The group typically arranges for three buses for rallies, but has already arranged for 30 buses this year. That number doesn't include buses for other groups that have organized trips and out-of-state groups.

"We want the government to keep its hands off our ability to protect ourselves," Van Cleave told WTOP. "People are really, really upset."  

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