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On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Virginia Gun Group to Rally for Concealed Weapons

Civil Rights Leader Spoke Out in Opposition to "Weapons of Violence for Personal Protection"

RICHMOND, Va., Jan. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) will be meeting at the State Capitol in Richmond on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to rally for the elimination of existing gun regulations and the repeal of laws that have prohibited concealed carry permit holders from bringing handguns into schools, churches, government buildings, restaurants and other places of public gathering in the Commonwealth. The holiday commemorates the birthdate of the great civil rights leader and proponent of nonviolence.

During his life, King spoke out forcefully against the necessity of carrying weapons for self-protection. After his house was bombed in January 1968, King wrote the following in his autobiography:

"Many of the officers of my church and other trusted friends urged me to hire a bodyguard and armed watchmen for my house ... In order to satisfy the wishes of these close friends and associates, I decided to consider the question of an armed guard. I went down to the sheriff's office and applied for a license to carry a gun in the car; but this was refused. Meanwhile I reconsidered. How could I serve as one of the leaders of a nonviolent movement and at the same time use weapons of violence for my personal protection? [My wife] Coretta and I talked the matter over for several days and finally agreed that arms were no solution. We decided then to get rid of the one weapon we owned ... I was much more afraid in Montgomery when I had a gun in my house ... Had we become distracted by the question of my safety we would have lost the moral offensive and sunk to the level of our oppressors."

King also famously said, "Nonviolence means not only avoiding external physical violence but also internal violence of the spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, you refuse to hate him."

The VCDL has made no acknowledgement of the holiday in communications to members other than to note that parking in the streets surrounding the General Assembly Building will be free on Monday. The site of the VCDL rally, the Bell Tower on the State Capitol Grounds, has been used by the Virginia Center for Public Safety, the Million Mom March, and other gun violence prevention groups during the past ten Martin Luther King Jr. Days to conduct vigils to memorialize and commemorate victims and survivors of gun violence in the Commonwealth.

One of the featured speakers at the VDCL rally is the executive director of Gun Owners of America, Larry Pratt. In a 2003 article entitled "Why Blacks Tend to Support Gun Control," Pratt made a thinly veiled attack on King, stating, "Hatred is the 'glue' that has been used by many black leaders--preachers and politicians alike--to keep blacks on the plantation ... Not surprisingly, one of the elements of the liberal worldview supported by many blacks is opposition to self-defense. Indeed, most black politicians are gun-bashing anti-Second Amendment zealots." Also appearing as a speaker at the rally is Virginia State Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax).

"It is ironic that the day set aside to commemorate Dr. King--who died at the hands of a gunman--has been chosen by the VCDL to celebrate their goal of overturning the few existing sensible restrictions on gun ownership and eliminating the last few places in our society that guns have not yet permeated," said Richmond Million Mom March President Andy Goddard, whose son, Colin, was seriously wounded during the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

"Dr. King was deeply committed to peace and non-violence," said Dr. LaTonya Wyche Ricks, Executive Director and CEO of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Life Institute. "It is clearly inappropriate to hold a rally that celebrates guns and 'justified' violence on the national holiday celebrating his birth and life's work."

The VCDL has asserted that the carrying of concealed weapons in public places is a "fundamental human right." In the recent Second Amendment case of District of Columbia vs. Heller, however, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion that, "The Court's opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

The Virginia Center for Public Safety (formerly known as Virginians Against Handgun Violence) is a statewide organization that was founded in 1992 after a young person was shot outside a school in Hampton Roads. The organization seeks to create a safer Virginia through education, public forums, youth outreach, and work in the public policy arena. VACPS believes that a chief cause of gun violence is the easy access that criminals and youth have to guns in the state.

As the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, working with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities. (PEG) is a grassroots protest movement of Americans that emerged in response to the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history at Virginia Tech. We are outraged at how easy it is to obtain a gun in the United States and believe it is time to change lax laws that allow criminals and dangerous individuals easy access to guns. Each of the movement's "Lie-In" protests includes 32 individuals (symbolizing the number of students and teachers murdered at Virginia Tech) who lie on the ground for just a few minutes (signifying the brief amount of time it takes to buy a gun in the United States). Our goal is to encourage like-minded citizens to stage their own protests around the country so that we can influence the public discourse and ultimately the legislative process with regard to this critical national problem.

Angel Fund is the family, friends, neighbors and advocates of Reema Samaha, who was tragically killed on April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech by a lone gunman, along with 31 other students and faculty. There were many complex issues that contributed to the Virginia Tech tragedy: mental illness, campus safety and security, lack of information sharing, privacy and gun laws. We would like to address those policies and laws we felt contributed to the tragedy and to seek practical and reasonable solutions to avoid another similar tragedy. We, therefore, would like to honor Reema's memory by making the world a safer place through education, advocacy and implementing practical solutions.

The Virginia State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ensures the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority groups and citizens; achieves equality of rights and eliminates race prejudice among the citizens of the United States; removes all barriers of racial discrimination through the democratic processes; seeks to enact and enforce federal, state, and local laws securing civil rights; informs the public on the adverse effects of racial discrimination and seeks its elimination; educates persons as to their constitutional rights and to take lawful action in furtherance of these principles.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Life Institute is an interfaith, non-profit, and nonpartisan national organization concerned with family and community empowerment through social, educational and cultural activities. Recognizing that the corruption of the family causes the corruption of a society, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Life Institute promotes the preservation and restoration of healthy and moral families while ensuring the protection and fullest development of our children.

Media Contacts: Lori Haas of the Virginia Center for Public Safety at (804) 399-4893 or, Andy Goddard of the Richmond Million Mom March at (540) 577-4754 or, Abby Spangler of Protest Easy Guns at (571) 970-0320 or, Joe Samaha of Angel Fund at, Dr. Rayfield Vines of the Virginia NAACP at (804) 321-5678 or, and Dr. LaTonya Wyche Ricks of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Life Institute at

SOURCE Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

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