AP Photo/Steve Helbe
The Associated Press is reporting that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is set to declare a temporary emergency and ban all firearms from the grounds of the state capitol, just days before tens of thousands of gun owners and Second Amendment supporters are set to rally and lobby lawmakers.
The AP spoke with two individuals familiar with the governor’s plans, who say Northam will announce the move at a Wednesday press conference.
Fearing a repeat of the deadly violence that engulfed Charlottesville more than two years ago, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam plans to declare a temporary emergency Wednesday banning all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square ahead of a massive rally planned next week over gun rights.
That’s according to two state officials who were briefed on the plans but not authorized to speak publicly about them. The governor, a Democrat, plans to announce the plans at a news conference Wednesday afternoon because of credible threats of potential violence and extremism, one official said.
What kind of credible threats?
One official said Northam decided to ban all guns from the grounds of Capitol Square after receiving reports for weeks about inflammatory online postings by out-of-state pro-gun and militia groups who are promising to attend Monday’s rally.
The official said the state does not have intelligence that the groups are planning a specific act of violence, but said Northam has grown increasingly concerned about numerous ominous-sounding postings on social media from forces outside Virginia. The official cited one posting that included a photo of an AR-15 and said there are “great sight angles from certain buildings” near Capitol Square.
I haven’t seen that posting, but to be blunt, a ban on guns on the capitol grounds wouldn’t prevent someone intent on doing harm from doing so outside of any gun-free zone set up by the governor.
As someone who’ll be in attendance and speaking at Lobby Day on Monday, I can tell you that everyone involved, and those Virginians planning on attending, aren’t showing up at the capitol to commit acts of violence. In fact, anyone who plans on traveling to Richmond with the intent of causing harm or sparking unrest is no friend of the Second Amendment or Virginia gun owners. If you’re not showing up to peacefully protest and to lobby lawmakers, stay home.
The tens of thousands of Virginians who’ve shown up at their county supervisors meetings all did so peacefully, and in many cases were armed while in attendance. There are now 130 Second Amendment Sanctuaries in the state, and at no meeting has there been any violence or unrest, just an incredible number of engaged citizens intent on making their voices heard. Many of them weren’t really interested in politics, at least until they became aware that anti-gun politicians are interested in them.
Now these same folks are being told that they’re not to be trusted. I believe that’s exactly the wrong message for Governor Northam to send at the moment, but then again, he’s apparently not interested in having a conversation with me about his recent moves.
I do understand that this event is likely to feature an overwhelming number of attendees, and I’m not blind to the public safety concerns. That being said, I also believe that the governor knows exactly what he’s doing by invoking Charlottesville in his messaging regarding his gun ban at the capitol. I think it’s disgusting to compare Lobby Day in to a bunch of white supremacists and antifa elements who came looking for a fight, and it honestly saddens me that Governor Northam believes that his best political strategy is to attempt to demonize Virginia’s gun owners.
We’ll have more on this developing story throughout the day, including reaction from Second Amendment advocates and pro-Second Amendment politicians in the state.