‘ Governor’s actions will unfortunately impede the ability of people to exercise not only their Second Amendment rights, but their First Amendment rights as well…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency to temporarily ban weapons from the state capitol grounds ahead of a pro-Second Amendment rally scheduled for next week.
However, gun-rights advocates are pushing back, seeking injunctive relief against the illegal declaration, they say, which violates a 2012 state law.
Northam claimed the individuals protesting the Democratic state legislature’s proposed gun-control legislation pose a threat of “armed confrontation and assault on our Capitol.”
Thus, starting Friday evening and ending Tuesday night, firearms, sticks, bats, chains, and other weapons will be prohibited on the grounds.
State law enforcement had “received credible intelligence” gathered via “dark web channels used by white nationalists outside Virginia” that revealed “malicious plans” to “storm our Capitol” and “weaponize drones,” Northam claimed.
“This includes out-of state militias and hate groups from across the country,” Northam said, according to The Washington Post. “They’re not coming to peacefully protest. They’re coming to intimidate and cause harm.”
In response, Gun Owners of America announced that they had filed suit against Northam.
“The Governor’s action is illegitimate and cannot be allowed to stand,” said GOA Senior Vice President Erich Pratt in an email to supporters.
“His action infringes on both the First and Second Amendment rights of Virginian’s who wish to peaceably assemble to petition their government, while at the same time not surrendering their right to self-defense,” Pratt said.
According to their suit, requesting a preventative injunction, a 2012 law specifically prevents the governor from banning guns during a state of emergency, including political rallies.
“Like all gun control, this gun ban could have only negative consequences,” Pratt said. “If there are, in fact, any bad actors who would attempt to hijack the rally, they would simply ignore the law.”
More than 100 Virginia counties have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in protest of the state Democrats’ attempts to pass radical anti-gun legislation.
Because of this, Northam said the protests planned for next week are not the same as “peacefully assembled” activist rallies.
“No one wants another incident like the one we saw in Charlottesville in 2017,” he said, referencing the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally that turned deadly. “We will not allow mayhem and violence to happen here.”
But Pratt countered that Northam’s excuse only highlighted the disingenuousness of his politically motivated power-grab.
“Incredibly, Northam is using the 2017 rally … in support of his ban on firearms, ignoring the fact that the unfortunate death that day was a vehicular homicide,” Pratt said. “Northam hasn’t made any attempt to ban cars.”
Some GOP lawmakers in the state acknowledged Northam’s safety concerns, but said the real threat comes from outside “agitators,” not law-abiding Virginia gun owners.
“While we fully expect this to be peaceful, there are legitimate concerns of a few bad actors hijacking the rally,” House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement.
“Law enforcement says those agitators are acting on their own volition and are not part of the busloads of Virginians visiting the Capitol,” he said. “While we are grateful for the precautions taken by law enforcement, the Governor’s actions will unfortunately impede the ability of people to exercise not only their Second Amendment rights, but their First Amendment rights as well.”
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.