Northam: State Of Emergency in Richmond, Guns Banned For Lobby Day
AP Photo/Steve Helber

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam officially announced his intent to ban guns on the grounds of the state capitol during next Monday’s Lobby Day, when tens of thousands of gun owners and Second Amendment supporters are expected to be on hand lobbying against his gun control agenda.

Speaking at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Northam cited concerns over violence taking place during the gathering, and compared the upcoming Lobby Day to the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2018 that left one dead while declaring a temporary state of emergency in Richmond from Friday evening through next Tuesday night.

I’d love to know what agencies the governor is referring to, because a spokesperson for the Capitol Police flat out rejected Northam’s comparison to Charlottesville. Spokesperson Joe Macenka told USA Today that the two events are very different.

Macenka said Capitol Police have not heard much from out-of-state groups but dismissed the comparison between the lobby day and Charlottesville attack. “Charlottesville didn’t seem to have any purpose. People seemed to come together bent on committing violence,” Macenka said. “There is some very serious legislation at issue here.”

I may be reading between the lines here, but I get the feeling that since Democrats lied late last week and said that the Capitol Police had asked for a ban on firearms inside the capitol and adjoining office space, the law enforcement agents responsible for protecting the capitol and the folks who work there are getting a little fed up with the political games that Democrats are playing. Regardless of the motivation, I appreciate Macenka’s rejection of the odious comparison. I wish Governor Northam would have done the same, instead of perpetuating the false equivalence.

Del. Nick Freitas is also rejecting the idea that the attendees of Lobby Day are dangerous people. As he told Bearing Arms:

“Governor Northam is trying to stoke fear in the people of Virginia about who is coming to assemble and protest for their constitutional rights on Monday. I’ve had the chance to meet so many of the people coming down on Monday and they are coming to peacefully protest for their constitutional rights as law-abiding gun owners and as Americans.”

I too have met dozens of my fellow Virginians at the ten different county supervisors meetings I’ve attended since the November elections, and they’ve all been friendly and engaging, though firm in their opposition to Northam’s gun bills. These folks are using their legitimate right to protest, to engage their elected officials, and in return they’re being labeled as dangerous. It’s disgraceful.

It’s just as disgraceful, by the way, to try to use this peaceful and lawful assembly for any other cause than to support Virginians as they lobby their lawmakers to oppose these gun control bills. That’s the single issue that will be driving tens of thousands of Virginians to go to the capitol on Monday, and as one of those Virginians I want to say if you’re bringing any other agenda with you, stay home.

I hope and believe that Monday’s event will be a peaceful and positive one, but I also think the governor is making a big mistake, and not only in banning firearms from the Capitol Square. I think it’s also a very bad idea to restrict entry to the capitol grounds to a single entrance, as Northam’s plan calls for. Instead of funneling the tens of thousands of people onto the capitol grounds, there are going to be tens of thousands bottlenecked outside. That creates an even more chaotic situation.

Shortly after Northam made his announcement, I spoke with Phil Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which is sponsoring the Lobby Day and rally activities on the 20th. He says attorneys are currently looking over the governor’s proclamation, and a request for a temporary injunction is a possibility. Under Virginia law, the governor only has a very limited ability to restrict firearms during a state of emergency.

Nothing in this chapter is to be construed to:

(3) Empower the Governor, any political subdivision, or any other governmental authority to in any way limit or prohibit the rights of the people to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of Virginia or the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, including the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, sale, or transfer of firearms except to the extent necessary to ensure public safety in any place or facility designated or used by the Governor, any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, or any other governmental entity as an emergency shelter or for the purpose of sheltering persons;

It’s hard to argue that Capitol Square is being used as an emergency shelter during Lobby Day, so where’s the authority for the governor to do this? According to the governor’s executive order, Northam is indeed claiming that the area in which firearms will be banned provides for the “shelter” of individuals.

To provide for the shelter and safety of state employees who work on or near the Virginia State Capitol and those who come to peacefully assemble, and consistent with the General Assembly’s prohibition on weapons in the Virginia State Capitol and the Pocahontas Buildings, and Executive Order 50 (McAuliffe), which prohibits firearms in offices occupied by executive branch agencies, no weapons, including firearms, may be carried or possessed on any land, real property, or improvements owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia within the area bounded by Broad Street, Ninth Street, Bank Street and Governor Street in the City of Richmond, Virginia, as well as any Commonwealth-owned parking lots for Virginia’s Department of Transportation, the Madison Building, the Monroe Building, the Patrick Henry Building, Washington Building, the Jefferson Building, and the Oliver Hill Building.

We’ll be closely watching to see if VCDL does file to try and block the governor’s gun ban in Capitol Square.

It’s clear that Ralph Northam and Virginia’s Democrat lawmakers would rather talk down to gun owners than to them (I never did hear from the governor’s office, despite repeated requests). I wouldn’t even be surprised if many Democrats found a way to be absent from the state capitol on Monday during Lobby Day, to be honest. They’re clearly doing everything they can to tamp down attendance.

But I can also tell you that the engagement is having an impact. I believe that several suburban and rural Democrats in particular are feeling the heat from constituents opposed to Northam’s gun control agenda. Even some who thought they were voting for “common sense gun safety” laws didn’t realize that Democrats would be pushing bills that would turn hundreds of thousands of Virginians into felons for simply maintaining possession of their lawfully acquired ammunition magazines. They weren’t voting to shut down gun ranges or ban commonly-purchased ammunition.

On Lobby Day, tens of thousands of those Virginians will be on hand to peacefully and powerfully encourage their lawmakers to say “no” to Ralph Northam’s anti-gun agenda. If you can’t be there, call or email your delegate and state senator and you can still have an impact. I just hope lawmakers are there to listen. And Governor Northam, if by chance you actually read this, I’m still up for a conversation. Frankly, you need to be speaking with gun owners now more than ever. Let’s talk.