RICHMOND, Va -- The debate over gun control in Virginia has drawn national headlines over the past few months. Monday, advocates of greater gun restrictions claimed more needs to be done; while hundreds of gun owners worried their constitutional rights are being squeezed.
A large group of gun owners, many of whom were carrying, held their annual "gun lobby day" rally at the Capitol bell tower. The executive action taken by Governor Terry McAuliffe banning guns in state government buildings and the announcement by Attorney General Mark Herring that Virginia would end concealed carry permit reciprocity agreements with 25 states had some gun owner livid.
"I think the dropping of the reciprocity with other states has really enraged people," said Jennifer Bowers from Fredericksburg.
"People are afraid of getting inadvertently caught up in something because the laws are confusing," said Donald Green, a gun owner from New Kent County.
Several Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require Virginia's Attorney General to recognize out of state concealed carry permits. During the pro-gun rally, a group of protesters even called to impeach Herring, chanting "no more years!"
Sources with the Attorney General's office said they are not concerned by impeachment calls. Later in the afternoon at a vigil to honor victims of gun violence, Herring continued to stand for what he said were commonsense gun restrictions.
"We can stand with legislators that are ready to close the gun show loophole and fight for universal background checks," said Herring.
Public safety officials said Virginia State Police denied 278 people through the federal background check system in 2015. During their calls for expanded background checks, advocates pointed out that if that many people were denied firearms when trying to buy them from a licensed dealer the number trying to get weapons from illegitimate sources is likely even higher.
Andy Goddard's son Colin was shot four times during the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. Goddard said he feels the average gun owner in fact agrees with "common sense" gun restrictions.
"The groups like I listened to this morning, I don't think they represent average gun owners," Goddard said. "We're not trying to take away people's rights; we're trying to make sure less people die."
Advocates said more than 100 bills either expanding restrictions or strengthening 2nd amendment rights have been introduced for the 2016 General Assembly session.