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VA gov temporarily bans guns from capital in ‘state of emergency’ ahead of pro-gun rally

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam gives his second State of the Commonwealth Speech before 140 members of the 2019 General Assembly, on Jan. 9. (VCU Capital News Service/Released)
January 15, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam today issued a state of emergency declaration that bans guns from the state capital ahead of a pro-gun rally expected next week.

The temporary declaration bans all weapons — including guns — from Capitol Square grounds, and begins Friday, Jan. 17 at 5:00 p.m. EST and remains in effect until Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 5:00 p.m. EST, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Tens of thousands of gun rights demonstrators were expected to gather in Capitol Square on Monday, Jan. 20 to protest the state’s Democratic lawmakers’ consideration of several strict gun control bills.

Such bills that have been considered this week include “assault weapons” bans, high-capacity magazine bans, and more.

Northam’s declaration claims that law enforcement has obtained intelligence showing that attendees have violent plans for the event, including militia groups from other states, and “white nationalist rhetoric.”

In a televised announcement on Wednesday afternoon, Northam said the threats were reminiscent of the Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 that includes white supremacist demonstrations and resulted in the death of a woman.

“We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here,” Northam said. “No weapons will be allowed on Capitol grounds. This includes everything from sticks and bats, to chains and projectiles. … This list also includes firearms.”

“This is based on real, identifiable threats that have been made,” he added.

Multiple police agencies have formed a “unified command” to prepare for the event and possible violence.

“Organizers of the rally have been planning this for some time and I welcome them to their Capitol and I believe they intend this to be a peaceful rally,” Northam said.

“Unfortunately, they have released forces beyond their control. Calls on them to discourage people from out of state coming here with violent intent,” he added.