RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and banned weapons from Capitol Square in Richmond ahead of a gun rights rally planned for Monday.
Northam said law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified “credible, serious threats” of violence, including malicious plans by out-of-state militias and hate groups.
“We’re seeing threats of violence. We’re seeing threats of armed confrontation and assault on our capitol,” the governor said during a briefing.
The state of emergency for Richmond will be in effect from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Tuesday. All weapons, including firearms, sticks, bats, chains, and projectiles, are prohibited from Capitol grounds during that time.
“No one wants another incident like the one we saw in Charlottesville in 2017,” the governor said. “We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here.”
Northam called on the organizers of Monday’s rally, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, to disavow the threats of violence, adding that he believes the organizers have good intentions with the rally.
The VCDL issued this statement Thursday night:
Since 2003 the Virginia Citizens Defense League has held its lobby day and rally every year and done so with zero incidents. Governor Northam declared war on lawful gun owners in November with a host of gun control proposals aimed not at criminals, but at law-abiding gun owners. It was his attack and the reckless, and threatening, rhetoric from others in Democrat leadership, such as saying the National Guard would be called out to enforce gun laws, that has angered gun owners from across the state of Virginia.
Importantly, VCDL believe that the Governor does not even have the legal authority to ban guns under a state of emergency and VCDL’s attorneys are actively looking at filing an injunction again the Governor’s gun ban.VCDL
Virginia State Police Superintendent Colonel Gary Settle said law enforcement expects “a substantial crowd side” in Richmond.
“Our public safety mission is to maintain the peace and uphold the law so that Virginians can have their say and rally at their capitol on Monday in a safe and secure environment,” Settle said.
“Violence will not be tolerated,” he added. “And if that is your group’s or your intention on Monday, then you’re not welcome.”
Northam asked people to avoid downtown Richmond on Monday and encouraged non-essential personnel not to go to work. He pointed out that Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday for state employees.
This comes as Northam and his fellow Democrats, who now have control of the state Senate and House of Delegates, are advancing several gun-control bills. Hundreds of towns, cities, and counties across Virginia have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in opposition to potential new gun restrictions.
Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) issued this statement:
Today’s action by the Governor to declare a State of Emergency simply because law abiding Virginians planned to visit the Capitol flies in the face of citizens’ First Amendment right to voice opinions on legislation coming before the General Assembly and the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Majority Party even plans to stay away on Monday as thousands of Virginians flock to the Capitol so they don’t have to listen to the concerns of law abiding citizens. Virginia long has led this nation in supporting individual rights, being the home to many of our founding fathers. Today’s action by the Governor and the Majority Party sends Virginia on a downward spiral of whittling away at rights long enjoyed by our citizens. Having served in the General Assembly for a number of years, I’ve witnessed the Guns Rights Rally each and every year and not once have we had a single incident where a law abiding citizen committed a crime. This over reaction by the Governor is a sad day for our Commonwealth and for law abiding citizens across Virginia.Del. Terry Kilgore