Thursday, January 30, 2020

Report from Richmond

(One of my friends-- and a blog reader-- is a Virginia resident. He was there, on the ground, at Richmond, VA, for Lobby Day on January 20, 2020. Before the event, I invited him to write a guest post about the experience when he got the time. All that follows is his report. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.)

Richmond Experience:

I arrived in Richmond at about 10:15am, having passed a bunch of police cars sitting in several places along the highway into the city. I found no available parking on the northern side (all street-level parking was full, all public parking garages displayed "Lot Full" or "Closed" signs). I drove around to the eastern side, where I found a single parking space that another car was just pulling out of, so I took it. The VCU parking lot across the street was almost completely vacant besides a couple police cars and some "lot closed" signs with dire warnings about being towed.

After parking, I walked into the city, dressed in my suit and open carrying a 9mm handgun. It was bitter cold, and I probably should have worn another layer. I followed some small groups of people in the direction of the capitol grounds and struck up a friendly conversation with some of the people headed my way.

As I got closer to the grounds there were a few sparse groups wandering around, with a couple merchants selling Trump apparel. Walking down N 8th St, I was starting to get a little concerned that the turnout wasn't going to be as big as I hoped. However, once I turned the corner at E Franklin St, I saw that the whole street was packed with people, which was a huge relief.

I slowly made my way through the sea of orange "Guns Save Lives" stickers up to N 9th St. When I got there, the crowd thickened and there were times where I couldn't move in any direction. As I made my way past the people carrying all kinds of firearms, from little pistols to AR-15s, I noticed how polite everyone was. People made way when asked, made conversation with other armed strangers and called each other "sir" or "ma'am".

While the majority of people were white men, there were plenty of women, minorities, and even a few children.

I wandered around up N 9th St, then down to E Main St, past the Court of Appeals, then came back down Bank St. I recorded a few livestreams on my way, and then retraced my steps.

On my way out down N 10th St, I passed some LGBT and Women's groups (both with pro-gun signs and stickers).

As I walked back up N 9th St, I passed by the only person I saw at the event wearing anything anti-gun (a small pin with an AR-15 in one of those "No" circle things). They were treated just the same as anyone else, with people moving aside to allow them to pass by, many of them wearing AR-15s. I couldn't help but wonder why that person would put themselves into such a situation if they truly believed that AR-15s were so dangerous that they should be banned? I thought about trying to start a conversation, but I didn't have time to make a decision before they passed by and I figured it would be creepy for me to turn around and follow them.

I spent a little more time wandering around before getting hungry and deciding to head home.

As I was stopped checking my phone, a guy with a camera came up and asked if I would mind being interviewed. I said that would be fine, and spent a few minutes answering his questions. I'm not a good public speaker, but I think I did okay and I wanted to represent the community well. A soft-spoken guy in a nice suit with a small handgun is more likely to change minds than a guy in camo with an AR-15 strapped to his back.

At this point, it was about 12:30, and people were starting to clear out. I made it back to the car and probably left close to 12:45.

On my way home, I stopped at a Wendy's in southern VA for lunch, which was the first time in my life I'd ever open carried in public by myself. Lunch went very well, I don't think many people even noticed the dark handgun against my navy suit.

Afterwards, I sat down and calculated the square footage of the area we had occupied. Based on my observations 162,000 square feet of space was packed pretty tightly with people. An extremely generous calculation of 6 sq ft per person works out to 27,000 attendees. I'd estimate that we probably had somewhere between 27,000 and 40,000 people there.



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