Governor Ralph Northam isn’t making friends with gun activists right now. He has declared a state of emergency and has temporarily banned weapons from the Capitol grounds. This is all in advance of a gun-rights rally that has been planned for Monday.
The governor is citing that there are threats of “armed confrontation and assault” on the state capitol.
Throughout the Capitol complex and Capitol Square, firearms, chains, bats, sticks and other weapons will be banned from Friday to Tuesday.
On Monday, there is the traditional citizen lobbying day that happens in the state. Gun-rights groups organize a massive demonstration as a way of opposing some of the far-reaching bills that have been passed by the Virginia General Assembly, which has a Democratic majority.
Northam has been doing a lot recently that has gotten the attention of extremist groups and militias from across the country – and now there are security concerns in Richmond as a result.
Nonessential employees of the state have already been told not to come into work.
The governor, supported by Richmond mayor and a number of leaders within the police, made his announcement by first stating that he does believe in the right to assemble and bear arms. There’s a but, though. He said that authorities had received “credible intelligence” via dark web channels to identify that there were malicious plans in place by white nationalists outside of the state that planned on storming the Capitol and weaponizing drones.
Northam is concerned that the hate groups and out-of-state militias are not planning to protest peacefully. He said that they’re attending to intimidate and cause harm.
The governor also wanted to make sure that he did distinguish between the gun-rights activists who are law-abiding and who peacefully assemble at the Capitol versus the extremists that are intending on being violent. Essentially, Northam is stating that he wants to avoid the issue that occurred in Charlottesville in 2017 where a “Unite the Right” rally turned deadly.
House Republicans were initially critical of the ban that took place, preventing guns inside the Capitol of Richmond. However, with the threat of real violence, this is starting to lessen. The governor is also quick to acknowledge that it is a temporary ban since the event is planning to take place on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the ban will be lifted, allowing citizens to carry once again.
Republicans have also argued that because there are “agitators” working on their own volition, it is causing the issue of people not being able to exercise their Second Amendment or even their First Amendment rights.
It’s certainly a gray area. Do you remove Second Amendment rights temporarily in order to protect the entire population of a potential, perceived threat? Or, do you allow all guns to be permitted under the Second Amendment and risk a blood bath in the Capitol? There is no right or wrong answer. The Democratic governor is doing what he believes is right, and he’s being backed by city, state, and federal police officers. Further, Republicans don’t know what the right answer is.
Thomas K. Norment, the Senate Minority Leader for the state along with other GOP senators have questioned whether Northam has the authority to impose such a ban and if it is actually heightening tensions instead of reducing them.
Jack Wilson, the State Republican chairman, has been particularly critical of what Northam has done, saying that the Virginia Dems have created a citizenry that is “disarmed, vulnerable, and subservient.”
Gun control has been a continuous hot topic in Virginia, particularly with a deadly shooting that took place in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Citizens Defense League is a grass-roots group that turns out annually for the citizen lobbying day. They’re the ones behind Monday’s rally, and it proves to be larger than ever because of the Democratic legislature that has recently occurred, including requiring background checks and allowing localities to ban weapons from certain government buildings and events.
Northam has called on the VCDL to make the event peaceful and to not dishonor Virginia or their cause. The rallies created by the league have never been violent so it’s not expected they would now. This means that the entirety to Northam calling for the ban on weapons is because of the potential threat that would come from groups outside of Virginia who mean to create violence because of the ban on guns and for the various forms of legislation that have impacted law-abiding citizens throughout the state of Virginia. After all, if Virginia Dems are going to enact further laws, there’s the risk that other states will follow suit.