Just days ahead of planned gun rights event in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced that he is declaring a temporary state of emergency and banning weapons from the Capitol grounds.
The state legislature previously banned guns inside the Capitol building ahead of the Monday rally, but did not include the Capitol grounds as those are under the control of the governor, according to NBC 12.
“No weapons will be allowed on capitol grounds. This includes everything from sticks and bats to chains and projectiles,” Northam said during a press conference announcing the ban.
The emergency declaration will expire on Tuesday, after the rally is over.
The gun-rights advocacy organization Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) organized the rally which is called “the most important Lobby Day Rally.”
A post on the VCDL’s website urges people to attend the rally, “If you care about your gun rights in the slightest.”
NPR reports that law enforcement officials had received “credible” threats of violence ahead of the event.
“We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies that there are groups with malicious plans for the rally that is planned for Monday,” Northam said on Wednesday.
Additionally, the governor said state agencies had seen information that showed “out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.”
In a tweet, NBC 12 reporter Eric Perry shared some of the threats that state officials were concerned about.
Governor Northam says they have received threats of storming the Capitol Building, weaponized drones and others. This is one reason why he's declaring a state of emergency for Richmond @NBC12— Eric Perry (@EricpNBC12) January 15, 2020
A post on the VCDL’s Facebook page — written by several state Republican senators — described participants as “decent, law-abiding citizens” seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights.
“The thousands of Virginians who plan on rallying at the Capitol on Monday are decent, law-abiding citizens,” the post said, adding, “They plan on utilizing their First Amendment rights to defend their Second Amendment rights. That strikes us as being a very American – and very Virginia – exercise.”
From Mark D. Obenshain :SENATE REPUBLICANS ON GOVERNOR NORTHAM’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF CAPITOL SQUARE RESTRICTIONS…Posted by VCDL Page – Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. on Wednesday, January 15, 2020
The group said it was “grateful” to law enforcement for their efforts to ensure people’s safety, but warned in its post that Northam’s emergency declaration might “heighten rather than assuage tensions.”