Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) announced Wednesday that he was declaring a state of emergency in order to prohibit weapons at an upcoming pro-gun rally.
At a press conference, Northam described the potential for violence and said he was prohibiting all weapons, not just guns. He cited “credible intelligence” from law enforcement that groups including out-of-state militias and hate groups had “malicious plans” for Monday’s rally.
“We’re seeing threats of violence,” the governor said. “We’re seeing threats of armed confrontation and assault on our Capitol.”
Northam didn’t go into specifics on what threats the state had seen, but he did mention the prospect of people storming the Capitol, and the possibility of groups “weaponizing drones” over the area.
The weapons ban, according to the written emergency declaration, applies to Richmond’s Capitol Square. It begins Friday at 5 p.m. and continues until Tuesday at 5 p.m. Last week, lawmakers banned guns in the Capitol Building itself.
“They’re coming to intimidate and cause harm,” Northam said of the “violent groups and white nationalists from outside Virginia.” Later, he expressed concern about “another incident like the one we saw in Charlottesville,” where a white nationalist killed an anti-fascist protester in 2017 at a chaotic rally in which racist groups fought in the streets with counter-protesters.
At Monday’s “Lobby Day,” pro-gun advocates led by the Virginia Citizens Defense League will crowd Virginia’s Capitol and advocate against a package of new gun control bills pushed by Democrats in the state.
For the first time since 1993, Democrats control the state’s governorship and both legislative chambers, and they’ve pursued gun legislation that has pro-gun activists up in arms, including a “red flag” law that empowers judges to confiscate firearms from people deemed an “extreme risk,” as well as a background check bill and other measures.
Militia groups from around the state and elsewhere in the country, as well as other gun rights groups, have rallied against the measures since Democrats won control of the state’s government last year.
Some localities have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuary Cities” and pledged not to enforce state gun restrictions. One local sheriff even vowed to “deputize thousands of our law-abiding citizens to protect their constitutional right to own firearms.”
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said Wednesday that Virginia Democrats had “declared war on law-abiding gun owners.”
Chris Hill, a Georgia native and founder of the Three Percent Security Force militia, took issue with the legal grounds on which Northam issued the emergency declaration. But he told TPM his group would “play wait and see” with regard to carrying weapons.
Others took the news a little worse.
“It’s like these people want war,” tweeted Jon Miller, host on the conservative BlazeTV channel, a few hours before Northam’s press conference. “Come and take it, bitch.”