RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam had declared a temporary state of emergency banning all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square ahead of a massive rally planned next week over gun rights.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Northam made the announcement citing that law enforcement has identified credible threats of violence against the demonstration. Out-of-state militia groups are also expected to attend the event.
Lawmakers already voted to ban guns inside the state Capitol, but Capitol grounds are under the authority of the governor.
Political Analyst Quentin Kidd said Northam's decision is out of concern for a potential repeat of the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville in 2017.
“This is really unprecedented," political analyst Quentin Kidd said. "The governor has the right to make these restrictions."
“There are going to be thousands and thousands of people [in Capitol Square] who show up for that rally and let’s just hope that it is a peaceful rally and it doesn’t become violent," said Kidd.
A lack of violence, though, doesn’t mean gun rights advocates don’t want to demonstrate how they feel about gun legislation.
"Both sides are being cautious right now. Even as gun rights groups are still trying to press their case," Kidd said.
The governor's announcement bans all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds. He plans on providing resources to provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies to keep demonstrators safe.
The temporary emergency lasts from Friday, Jan. 17 starting at 5 p.m. to Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 5 p.m.
“Tens of thousands of Virginians are expected to visit Richmond Monday to assemble and petition their government," said House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert. "While we fully expect this to be peaceful, there are legitimate concerns of a few bad actors hijacking the rally. Law enforcement says those agitators are acting on their own volition and are not part of the busloads of Virginians visiting the Capitol. 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."