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Gun-rights advocates turn out in huge numbers to protest proposed Virginia restrictions

JUDY WOODRUFF: Gun rights supporters gathered
in huge numbers today in Richmond, Virginia. They’re protesting a wave of gun control measures
being proposed by the newly elected Democratic majority in the state. William Brangham is in Richmond today. Nick
Schifrin will talk with him from the scene in a bit. But, first, William has this report. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: They started gathering before
dawn. They have come on charter buses from every corner of the state and beyond, thousands
and thousands of gun-rights supporters coming to Virginia’s capital. Governor Ralph Northam, citing violent threats
from out-of-state militias, banned all firearms from the capitol grounds. But outside that
area, many exercised the rights they have come here today to protect. P.J. HUDSON, Protester: I don’t want the government
taking my right, my liberty, my God-given right to protect myself WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Democrats swept the last
election, winning control of the Virginia Statehouse for the first time in over 25 years. After a mass shooting in Virginia Beach last
year where 12 people died, Democrats ran and won on a gun control platform. Among the laws
Democrats here are considering are a suite of gun control measures that would include
an assault weapons ban, universal background checks for almost all purchases, and these
so-called red flag laws, where officials could temporarily take guns away from people who
are deemed to be dangerous. Patrick Hope is a Virginia Democrat who chairs
the House’s Public Safety Committee. He’s championed several gun control measures, and
says he’s been threatened because of it. PATRICK HOPE (D), Virginia State Representative:
There’s more than 100 people that die every single day. And what you see on the news are the mass
shootings, but what you don’t see are the number of shootings in communities of color,
neighborhoods, the suicides because people have access to guns. And there are too many
guns that are readily accessible to too many people. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: When the Democrats won,
and made all those promises of what they were going to do, what was your reaction? STEVE CLARK, Owner, Clark Brothers: Made me
sick. Its just so illegal, what they’re doing. And there’s no calling them on it. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Steve Clark owns and runs
Clark Brothers, a 60-year-old gun store and shooting range in Warrenton, Virginia. He
says Democrats mistakenly blame the guns for violence committed by people. STEVE CLARK: If you’re drunk and you run over
somebody, if you’re mad and you run over somebody, in New York, when the guy took a box truck
and drive — drove down through the bicycle path and killed all those people on bicycles
or pedestrians, they go after him. It’s not the truck. I don’t care how safe
you’re trying to make things. The Second Amendment says you can’t touch the guns. And if you
have got a problem with people killing somebody else with whatever they do it, the person
that did it’s responsible. The gun has nothing to do with it. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the last few months,
gun rights supporters across the state have flooded city and county offices, protesting
the Democratic proposals. MAN: Let us provide our own defense. CHRIS MURPHY, Gun Safety Trainer: I think
it was a wakeup call for a lot of people. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Chris Murphy trains people
in gun safety in Central Virginia. He says that the state’s long history of strong pro-gun
rights lulled many into complacency. CHRIS MURPHY: The biggest reaction I have
seen has just been shock, just kind of a disbelief that it’s gone from zero to 60, as it were. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Now over 100 cities and
counties in Virginia have voted to become what some call Second Amendment sanctuaries,
places where newly passed gun laws will not be enforced. Sheriff Scott Jenkins of Culpeper County says
he won’t enforce any law he says is unconstitutional, and he says there’s no limit to the number
of local gun owners he would deputize to help him block those laws from being enforced. SHERIFF SCOTT JENKINS, Culpeper County, Virginia:
I will swear in thousands of auxiliary deputies in Culpeper. PATRICK HEELING, Culpeper County Resident:
What we’re doing is standing for the Constitution and the rule of law. We’re the people that
want to hold our government accountable. And we’re the people that want it to play by the
rules and to respect our rights. And that’s not happening. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Patrick Heeling (ph) and
April Quinn both live in Culpeper. Patrick was the first to petition his commissioners
to defy any new gun control laws. APRIL QUINN, Culpeper County Resident: There
are over 20,000 gun laws on the books, as they say. And so it’s already illegal to kill
someone or to rob someone or to do something of that nature. So these laws don’t do anything
but hurt law-abiding citizens, which take away my ability to protect my family. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You have the Democrats in
the legislature saying, we think the Constitution gives us this ability to curtail the sale
of guns to certain people under certain conditions. You believe that this is a clear violation.
Isn’t it natural that the courts would handle that? PATRICK HEELING: That’s how things have played
out, yes. But, again, the language is unambiguous and clear. It’s not subject to interpretation,
shall not be infringed. You know, I didn’t have to go to law school to figure out what
that means. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: While there were concerns
about militia groups causing problems, the several hundred or so we saw were heavily
armed, but peaceful. This group calls themselves the Ohio Patriots
and came to support their fellow Virginians. With so many armed protesters, many gun control
groups stayed away today. But we did meet this group representing March for Our Lives,
the youth movement that arose after the Parkland school massacre. NUPOL KIAZOLU, March for Our Lives: I was
one of the youngest counterprotesters in Charlottesville at 17 years old. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Nupol Kiazolu is a 19-year-old
college student from Hampton Roads in Virginia. NUPOL KIAZOLU: I lost my father to gun violence
at 8 years old. I absolutely support the Second Amendment right. But there — it’s clear that
there needs to be regulation with guns in America. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But for the thousands of
Second Amendment supporters who came out today, from across Virginia and from many other states,
they don’t see any room for compromise on any gun control laws. PATRICK HEELING: But if they can take our
rights, they can take your rights. This is about the idea of America. And if we lose this, we lose that. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s important to remember
that, as we hear those very strong attitudes against gun control, the most recent poll
of Virginia voters shows overwhelming support for gun control, 86 percent, 70-something
percent, over 50 percent for many of the measures that the Democratic legislature is proposing
here. So, we heard one set of voices against gun
control, but Virginia voters have been polled. They also support gun control — Nick. NICK SCHIFRIN: William, in the lead-up to
today, as you know, there were concerns about violence, even insurrection. And yet it seems like the day is ending peacefully? WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s right. As far as we could tell, there was no violence
whatsoever today. And, of course, everyone is glad to hear about that. As you saw in our tape piece, there were an
enormous amount of militia members here, heavily armed, armed to the teeth, really. Many of
those militias are — behaved themselves perfectly well. We do know from some of the insignias that
we saw some of the militias that were here have espoused violent anti-government rhetoric,
but none of that was manifest today. The overwhelming majority of people we saw
were just regular Virginians who care a lot about the Second Amendment and came out to
voice their opposition to the laws they’re seeing coming out of the legislature. NICK SCHIFRIN: And when it comes to that opposition,
William, there are more than 100 Virginia cities and counties who have all said, regardless
of what the legislature passes, they’re not going to enforce any new gun control laws. How real is that threat? WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s a very good question,
because we don’t know how much of that is symbolism and how much of that is really going
to show up in practice, where the rubber hits the road. The lawmakers that we have talked to, Democratic
lawmakers, think it’s largely a symbolic statement, that it’s not really going to — that, when
push comes to shove, that law enforcement officials will actually follow the law. According to legal experts that we have spoken
with, these are not really legally binding votes that are taken. They’re symbolic votes,
but many people we have spoken to said, symbolism matters and it’s important for us to have
registered in the vast majority of counties in this state that we don’t like what we’re
hearing coming out of the legislature. NICK SCHIFRIN: William Brangham in Richmond,
thank you very much. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You’re welcome, Nick.

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