I am honored to be a part of a growing grass roots group of folks who are increasingly concerned with the trajectory of our local, state, and federal politics. American Life & Liberty – Action Coalition had eight of it’s members head down to Richmond LAST Monday, the 13th, specifically to meet with key Legislators Before the busyness of “Lobby Day”, January 20th. Our group was representing three organizations working together for all Americans: American Life & Liberty, Family Alliance Network and Virginia Women Voters Coalition (coming soon).
Our intent was to gain an audience with as many of or local Representatives as we could, but Specifically with Elisabeth Guzman, as many of us see her as Key to many pieces of legislation we find most disturbing.
We were not disappointed. Following is an account of our day, and the unexpected meetings and moments along the way.
We carpooled in three cars, coming to Richmond from the north and the south. We arrived at around 8:30 to a modicum of confusion and unexpected lines, as both civilians and elected officials hoping to enter the Pocahontas Building (where House Representatives and Senators’ offices are housed) were met with heightened security measures including metal detectors and scanners. Mind you, this was the Monday following the sneaky underhanded under the table and unaccountable “committee” had decided to disallow firearms (from ANYone) inside the buildings on the Capital.
The mood was mostly jovial and enjoyable–most felt a bit of fellowship and camaraderie (and, the weather was fair, and the line moved reasonably). Once inside, we found our way to the fourth floor, where some of the representatives we hoped to meet with had offices, but also where (coincidentally–we did Not schedule our visit to coincide with any events or protest) the NRA was housed for their day of action. They were handing out 30 round AR magazines, and information/propaganda.
Our plan was to meet with Elisabeth Guzman, speak our pieces, then split and half of us attend both houses of congress. I was unsure how Guzman would receive us, if we would have an audience, and her reactions to “opposition”. I left her office still an ardent adversary, but with new respect for her.
We filed in and, over the next hour, told her our stories about why firearms were important to us, and that they were far more often “a great equalizer”; a tool of both racial and sexual equality. She was respectful and receptive of the messages. I went last, suspecting that my statement may be provocative, or taint her opinion of the rest of our group.
While the others described their enjoyment of sport, or need for self- or home- protection, My position was that those were secondary or collateral benefits of the 2nd. I said the purpose of the 2nd was the ability to overthrow tyrants. Full stop. I also told her that I did not doubt her sincerity, her dedication, or her devotion, and that she had as much chance of changing my views and ideas as I did of hers. Also, that I saw her, fully. That I saw her intent, her end game, her ideals. And that I fully, totally, entirely disagreed with her positions, values, views, and objectives, and that it was my mission to resist her at every turn (with all due respect). I said that, rather than even insult her integrity or my values trying in vain to change each other’s beliefs, I was focusing on replacing her.
We parted friends, and she accepted an invite from a member of our group to come up to Fauquier to go shooting (as she never has, before). Del Guzman actually reached out to one member of our group about her personal experience since it touched her. The women in the group plan to return with a follow up appointment with the new group Virginia Women Voters Coalition.
So, it was a surprisingly pleasant meeting.
We went to both the Senate and House Gallery, where our group was recognized and welcomed on the Floor of each chamber by Senator Jill Vogel in the Senate and Delegate Michael Webert in the House of Delegates.
We asked for an audience with Delegate Freitas, and he welcomed our group into his (very busy) office, shut the door, and spent a fantastic Hour and a Half with us, hearing our concerns and showing sincere interest and concern with our issues.
We even had chance to meet with Delegate Chris Collins, who joined the meeting with Delegate Freitas to discuss the real safety concerns that are not addressed by the proposed bills in the 2020 60-day session. Delegate Collins is a fine, dedicated man, with insight and personal experience invaluable to our cause.
The group followed up with him at his office after we left Del Freitas office.
Our day was filled with encounters of all sort. We met the Caped Crusader of Hemp.
The Green New Deal was also wonderfully represented (although they were relegated to literally hiding in a dead-end hallway! And then removed from the building and not allowed back for disrupting the building with their outbursts.
There were also dozens, hundreds of Concerned Citizens, all around the Capitol grounds sharing their concerns with the media, Delegates, Senators and other citizens worried about the future of Virginia.
We left Richmond with a very strong sense of accomplishment, and cooperation with our elected officials. This might have been our first trip to the Capital, but it is far from our last. The experience taught us the power of building bridges and working on relationships. The diversity of our group and the power of our dedication is the strength of our efforts. This is not the last you will hear from our efforts.
Stay tuned. We will be checking in regularly.