ALL NEWS

Security tight in Virginia’s state capital as gun-rights rally gets underway

Jan 20, 2020, 8:59 AM

Virginia gun rights...

A gun-rights rally in Virginia's state capital kicked off January 20, 2020, amid heavy security as authorities look to prevent the kind of violence that took place in nearby Charlottesville three years ago.

(CNN) — A gun-rights rally in Virginia’s state capital kicked off Monday morning amid heavy security as authorities look to prevent the kind of violence that took place in nearby Charlottesville three years ago.

Thousands of gun-rights advocates plan to descend on Richmond for “Lobby Day” to oppose legislation that would restrict access to firearms in the state. The commonwealth is bracing for the potential of extremist and white nationalist groups to disrupt the peaceful demonstrations with violence and riots, and the state’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, declared a temporary state of emergency last week to ban open and concealed firearms and other weapons from the state capitol grounds.

The large crowd was peaceful as of early Monday morning. People began lining up around 6 a.m. ET to go through security, an hour before gates to the capitol grounds were opened. Security is very thorough, with officers going through bags and making people remove their jackets to be searched, despite the frigid temperatures. Law enforcement is confiscating items like lighters as people pass into the secured area.

In addition to the people on the capitol grounds, there is a large crowd outside the fenced area, which is not under the ban on weapons and is an open carry area. They were chanting “Northam out” and appeared to outnumber the group on the capitol grounds. There is a heavy police presence among this crowd, and law enforcement can also be seen on the rooftops, providing extra security to the area.

“There might be far-right and far-left groups that might be out here today, but the vast majority of the message is ‘guns save lives’ and we believe in the 2nd Amendment,” Sean Restatter, 22, told CNN on the capitol grounds.

Manny Vega of Richmond, who was outside the secured area, said he and his fellow protesters were “here to represent every citizen here that wants to keep the right to bear arms.”

Concerns about threats

According to Northam, law enforcement had learned of credible threats of violence surrounding Monday’s rally, made from mainstream and alternative dark web channels used by violent groups and white nationalists outside of Virginia.

That led the Democratic governor to issue a temporary state of emergency last week through Tuesday, banning open and concealed firearms and other weapons from the state capitol grounds.

When announcing the ban on Wednesday, Northam said he hoped to prevent incidents like the violence that erupted three years ago at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, which left one counter protester dead and several others injured.

On Thursday, the FBI arrested three alleged members of a white supremacist group, including two men accused of possessing a machine gun, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition and body armor parts.

Virginia House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert said in a statement Saturday that despite differences with the Democrats, both groups are “united in opposition to any threats of violence or civil unrest from any quarter” and that any group that comes to Richmond to “spread white supremacist garbage, or any other form of hate, violence, or civil unrest isn’t welcome here.”

Right to gun ownership for ‘law abiding citizens’

The gun rights group — the Virginia Citizens Defense League — is organizing protests on so-called Lobby Day say their demonstrations will be peaceful and intend to draw attention to “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” or what they refer to as localities that vow not to enforce “unconstitutional” gun laws.

One of the scheduled speakers invited by VCDL includes Stephen Willeford, the man who shot and chased the shooter in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre in 2017.

The group’s president, Philip Van Cleave, previously told CNN that they’ve been attending Lobby Day since 2003 to advocate for guns rights by “law abiding citizens,” and the “grassroots” effort hasn’t had any incidents of violence.

Northam’s executive order was quickly challenged in court by VCDL, the Gun Owners of America and three private individuals, who argued that the ban violated their rights under the First and Second Amendments. A judge upheld the governor’s temporary ban on Thursday, leading them to file an appeal with Virginia’s Supreme Court. On Friday, the Supreme Court of Virginia refused their petition, leaving Northam’s ban in effect.

Following a mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building last year, Northam called for a special session to debate gun control, but it was adjourned by Republicans without action.

But since winning control of the state legislature in November, Democrats have more successfully advanced gun control measures in the 2020 legislative session.

The Virginia Senate, along party lines, approved several gun measures last week, including background checks for private firearm transfers, limiting gun purchases to one handgun a month and allowing localities to ban firearms in public during a permitted event.

The bills now head to the Virginia House of Delegates.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

FILE: Citizens crowd in classrooms at Mt. Logan Middle School in Logan, Utah a Republican caucus me...

Peter Johnston

Utah Republican and Democratic caucuses are coming up. Here’s how they work

One Utah party will hold a caucus next week to determine a presidential preference, another will meet, but ultimately decide by mail.

45 minutes ago

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Republ...

MICHAEL TACKETT Associated Press

McConnell to step down as Senate Republican leader in November

In a copy of his prepared remarks, McConnell stressed the importance of knowing when to move on. "to life's next chapter."

2 hours ago

Utah MLB...

Aimee Cobabe

Legislature approves bill funding Utah MLB stadium, Fairpark District

As it reads now, House Bill 562 retains an increased tax on car rentals, but removes a hike in the hotel tax.

3 hours ago

The Wendy's logo appears over a red background...

Associated Press

Wendy’s says it has no plans to raise prices during the busiest times at its restaurants

Wendy's says that it has no plans to increase prices during the busiest times at its restaurants.

3 hours ago

Ruby Franke appears in a virtual court appearance....

Adam Small

Utah legislators hear from Kevin Franke on life coach regulation

Lawmakers hear from Kevin Franke about regulating life coaches. His ex-wife Ruby Franke and her partner Jodi Hildebrandt are in prison.

4 hours ago

Nikki Haley in Utah...

Adam Small

Nikki Haley looks to swing Utah voters with visit to Utah

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Nikki Haley looks to gain votes with a visit to Utah on Wednesday.

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Security tight in Virginia’s state capital as gun-rights rally gets underway