POLITICS

Guns Banned From Virginia State Capitol Grounds As Pro-Gun Rally Draws Near

On Monday, thousands plan to protest gun control measures in Virginia. Organizers of the deadly Charlottesville rally also plan to attend.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a temporary emergency Wednesday banning guns from Capitol Square in Richmond ahead of a rally expected to draw thousands in protest of gun control measures, including far-right extremists. 

“We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies of threats of violence surrounding the demonstration planned for Monday, January 20,” Northam said in a tweet. “This includes extremist rhetoric similar to what has been seen before major incidents, such as Charlottesville in 2017.”

The rally, set to take place Monday, was organized by anti-gun control group Virginia Citizens Defense League in protest of a number of new gun control bills being pushed through by a Democratic-run statehouse, including one that would require universal background checks and another that would limit one handgun purchase per month. The VCDL has also pushed back against a “red flag” bill that would allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from someone deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. 

VCDL expects upward of 130,000 people to attend the event and is planning to bus people in from across the state. 

The event has also attracted the attention of dangerous far-right extremists with their own dubious intentions. Militia groups and organizers of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville are planning to attend, including far-right Charlottesville organizer Tammy Lee and members of the group New York Light Foot Militia, The Daily Beast reported.

Militia group The Oath Keepers have also expressed their intention to join the rally. The group operates on a false, paranoid belief that the federal government is actively working to destroy American liberties. 

Baseless conspiracy theories have also been floating around online that the National Guard will be called in and that the governor plans to shut down the electric grid. The hoaxes have proliferated so widely that the governor had to clarify that, no, he is not going to shut off the electric grid.

“We have no intention of calling out the National Guard,” Northam said last week. “We’re not going to cut off your electricity. We’re not going to go door to door and confiscate people’s weapons.”

The temporary ban on guns will end the following Tuesday.

Spectators applaud as the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to pass a Second Amendment Sanctuary City
Spectators applaud as the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to pass a Second Amendment Sanctuary City resolution at a meeting in Buckingham, Virginia, Dec. 9, 2019. The board passed the resolution without any public discussion. 

Monday’s rally could be a tipping point for gun owners who believe their right to own guns is being eroded. Across the country, U.S. counties are declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” a meaningless declaration expressing disapproval at mostly reasonable gun control measures.

More than 400 people in Virginia showed up last month to a meeting in Buckingham County to voice fears the government would take away their guns.  A bill is currently pending in the state Senate that would ban assault rifles, but it’s not clear that it would pass the General Assembly. 

Northam’s emergency declaration banning guns for the rally comes days after Democratic leaders used a special rules committee to ban guns inside the Capitol and a legislative office building. 

The VCDL did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking if it would follow Northam’s temporary emergency declaration.  

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