}

D.C., Md. & Va.

Thousands of gun rights advocates rally in the Virginia capital

Thousands of gun rights supporters from Virginia and across the country converged on Richmond for a rally in opposition to gun-control laws being advanced by the General Assembly’s new Democratic majority.

Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post

After threats and indications of potential violence, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered a state of emergency and banned guns from Capitol Square; other advocates who would normally come to the Capitol for citizens’ Lobby Day mostly stayed away.

Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Those willing to shed their weapons listened to speakers who denounced the governor and decried any attempts to limit gun purchases. Others, who remained armed, packed the streets outside the Capitol complex.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Zach Gibson/AFP/Getty Images

Zach Gibson/AFP/Getty Images

Some gun rights activists were seen sporting heavy weaponry. Brandon Lewis carried an enormous .50-caliber Barrett M82A1 rifle. Lewis said he owns an indoor shooting gallery in Upstate New York. He had driven down with his wife to show their support for gun rights.

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Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post

“This sends a strong visual message,” Lewis said, patting his rifle. “The government is not above us. They are us.”

Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post

Julio Cortez/AP

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones drove toward Capitol Square in an armored vehicle. Passing bemused pedestrians, Jones — standing half-out of a port atop the Humvee — shouted into a microphone about 1776, the Founding Fathers and “tyranny.”

Julio Cortez/AP

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Stephanie Keith/Reuters

The rally began with enthusiastic crowds gathered in a partially filled pen. Many there could not see or hear the dozen or so speakers — including politicians, conservative pundits and well-known gun rights advocates — slated to address rally-goers, so they huddled around loudspeakers.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post

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Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield) — who drew attention last year for wearing a .38 special on her hip on the Senate floor — was the first speaker. She, like others, read the Second Amendment verbatim as part of her brief remarks.

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Roberto Schmidt/Afp Via Getty Images

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Many in attendance began heading home after — if not during — the hour of speeches, which weren’t clearly audible among the crowds outside the fenced-off area.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

A small group of counterprotesters were seen following the rally.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post

About 6,000 people passed through secure checkpoints to enter the fenced-off, weapons-free secure area inside Capitol Square on Monday, according to Virginia Public Safety Secretary Brian Moran. Thousands more remained in the streets, where they were permitted to carry weapons.

Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

In small groups, the gun rights activists lowered their flags and headed toward the buses or cars in which they had come. As they walked through the cold, they remarked on how peaceful the rally had been.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the crowds, no arrests or gun confiscations had taken place as of the early afternoon Monday, Richmond police said. Read the latest here.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Reporting by Hannah Natanson, Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, Michael Miller and Patricia Sullivan. Photo editing and production by Nick Kirkpatrick.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images