Richmond, VA – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a temporary emergency on Wednesday afternoon that banned all weapons from the Capitol Square in front of the State House where a huge group of gun rights supporters are holding a rally on Monday.
"Law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend," Northam told reporters on Jan. 15.
The emergency declaration has prohibited all weapons, including guns, from the Capitol Square from 5 p.m. on Friday until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, WCYB reported.
Two state officials who had been briefed on the plan told the Associated Press that Northam is trying to head off a repeat of the violence that occurred at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2018, when James Fields deliberately ran down Heather Heyer, killing her.
However, that event was explicitly a white nationalist event, whereas the gun rights rally is explicitly about gun rights.
On Friday, Democratic leaders used a special rules committee to vote to ban guns at the state capitol building and called the move necessary to protect public safety, the Loudoun Times reported.
However, only the governor has the power to change the gun policy on the Capitol Square, where gun enthusiasts will rally on Jan. 20.
Democrats tried to blame the gun ban at the State House on the Capitol police.
“I just have to say that this is something that’s been recommended by our Capitol Police,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said before the vote. “And I think there are times when we sort of have to trust what our law enforcement officers are telling us.”
But the Capitol police chief wasn’t about to take the blame for the least popular policy change so far this year, the Loudoun Times reported.
Capitol Police Colonel Anthony Pike said that he never advised legislators to ban guns in the State House.
Col. Pike said he just answered the politicians’ questions about how to implement their ban after they voted on it, according to the Loudoun Times.
Republicans were furious when they learned the truth about the role of the Capitol police in making the new policy.
“That was a deliberate misrepresentation,” said Republican Virginia State Delegate Kirk Cox said. “There's just no way around that.”
Multiple Republican lawmakers carry concealed weapons while they are at the legislature, the Loudoun Times reported.
Virginia law prohibits the arrest of legislators during legislative sessions except for egregious crimes.
Col. Pike said Capitol police will not arrest Republican lawmakers who continue to carry concealed despite the gun ban, the Loudoun Times reported.
The planned emergency ban on weapons will go into effect as more than 100,000 gun-rights supporters are expected to begin arriving in Richmond for the protest on Martin Luther King Day.
Many view the move as more anti-gun shenanigans by the state’s newly-installed Democratic majority who have vowed to institute gun control in the famously pro-gun state that is home to the National Rifle Association (NRA).
"This is just average gun owners and average Virginians coming out to support them," Oath Keepers Founder Stewart Rhodes told WUSA. "It has nothing to do with white nationalism."
The Oath Keepers are a fringe-right group that actively works to recruit current and former military and first responders to prepare for the hostile takeover of local governments by the federal government or a foreign government. They openly oppose racism.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has vowed to aggressively enforce any new gun-control laws passed by the legislature.
"The Attorney General is delusional if he thinks this is just some movement that’s been ginned up by the so-called gun lobby," Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman-At-Large Corey Stewart said. "This is a groundswell movement if there ever was one."
Stewart represents an area that has declared itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.
A number of sheriffs have spoken out and said they will not enforce the proposed gun laws if they are passed.
“If the legislature decides to restrict certain weapons I feel harms our community, I will swear in thousands of auxiliary deputies in Culpeper,” Culpepper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins, who was just re-elected for a third term in office, said. “There’s no limit to the number of people I can swear in.”