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VCDL rallies armed pro-gun activists to attend meeting of McLean Citizens Association

McLean, VA—The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a radical pro-gun group based out of Midlothian, Virginia, rallied numerous pro-gun activists to travel to McLean last night to attend a meeting of The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) during which the location of a gun store next to a local elementary school was discussed. The nature of the VCDL response, which included armed individuals and a customized RV depicting a threatening image of Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui-Cho, made it clear the that effort was intended to intimidate McLean residents and elected officials who want the store to relocate.

The issue at hand involves gun dealer James Gates’ store, NoVA Firearms, which is located at 1389 Chain Bridge Road in McLean, Virginia, immediately next door to Sherman Elementary School. This has drawn vocal opposition from citizens in the community, who organized a large protest in front of the store on September 26, 2015.  Fairfax County Board of Supervisors member John Foust has also publicly stated he would like to see the store relocate. Gates previously sought to locate his business in the Cherrydale section of Arlington, but had his lease cancelled by landlord Kostas Kapasouris after intense pressure from local residents.

On Tuesday, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave sent an alert out to VCDL members across the state asking them to attend the MCA meeting. “There are apparently nine parents who fear the safety of their children, who go to school near the gun store. <eye roll>,” Van Cleave wrote, adding, “WE MUST MAKE SURE MCA HEARS FROM PEOPLE OTHER THAN THE GUN HATERS!!”

The MCA held their meeting at the McLean Community Center and planned to “discuss [the community’s] way forward” on the issue of the gun store, stating in their announcement, “Our community must find ways to balance the legitimate equities of this business with the understandable fears of parents. Both deserve respect. Because this is a community issue, MCA should do what we can to find middle ground.”

VCDL members , however, made such an open discussion impossible. Several VCDL members entered the McLean Community Center yesterday evening armed, including one man who stood in the back of the room during the meeting carrying a rifle. A pro-gun activist also parked a customized RV in front of the center with a large picture of gun-wielding Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui-Cho depicted on its side and the words, “BLOODSHED IN THE WOMB SHOOTERS LEAD TO BLOODSHED IN THE STREETS 2ND AMENDMENT DISARM CITIZENS STUPID DECISION.” The RV also listed the website, which belongs to Matt Trewhella, an insurrectionist pastor at Mercy Seat Christian Church in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and the founder of Missionaries to the Preborn. Trewhella’s website slogan reads, “divine laws trump human ones.”

James Gates and a lawyer with Arsenal Attorneys, Matthew Bergstrom, were also present at the meeting. Bergstrom could be seen at the meeting whispering into Van Cleave’s ear. Arsenal specializes in pro-gun litigation.

In response to this intimidation, MCA members voted unanimously to table discussion of the gun store at the meeting and conduct a study on its potential impacts on neighborhood safety. That study is due in a month.

Additionally, at least two families have now pulled their children out of Sherman Elementary after receiving threats from pro-gun activists due to their participation in the September 26 protest at NoVA Firearms. “Our parents are frightened. As a school board member, I am frightened,” Fairfax County School Board Member Janie Strauss told CBS News.

“What we are seeing in McLean is local, democratic government being crowded out by armed insurrectionists who want to send a clear message; ‘Go too far with your gun store campaign and there could be consequences,'” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). “Intimidation like this has no place in our democracy; a lesson our Founders made clear in the wake of Shays’ Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion.”

“As a survivor of gun violence, I was horrified to see photos from last night’s meeting in McLean,” said CSGV Virginia State Director Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was shot and injured during the Virginia Tech shooting. “To bring guns to this meeting and invoke the image of the Virginia Tech shooter is beyond the pale.”

Several photos taken by an attendee of the meeting have been pasted below. More can be obtained by sending a request to

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy. CSGV can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Meeting 16
Man carrying rifle at back of MCA meeting.
Meeting 20
Attendee wearing “GUNS SAVE LIVES” sticker at MCA meeting.
Recreational vehicle parked in front of the MCA meeting last night.



Meeting 15
NoVA Firearms Owner James Gates at the MCA meeting.
Meeting 14
Attorney Arsensal lawyer Matthew Bergstrom converses with VCDL president Philip Van Cleave during the MCA meeting.

Meeting 12
VCDL brought pro-gun activists from across the state to the meeting in McLean.

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