Richmond, VA — Since last month, tensions have been escalating in Virginia as lawmakers prepared a slew of gun laws that would have drastically changed the landscape of the state’s view on the Second Amendment. Protests have erupted, police officers have parted ways with the state government promising not to enforce gun bans, and on Wednesday, the hostility between pro-gun groups and government came to a head as Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency.
Since the battle over guns began in the state, more than 100 counties, cities and towns around Virginia have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” saying they feared state officials would try to remove their guns. In response, Northam said he would enforce the law, regardless of sanctuaries.
The state of emergency will be enforced from Friday evening until Tuesday evening as thousands of Second Amendment activists plan to descend on the capitol. Adding fuel to the fire brewing between the pro and anti-gun groups is the fact that this declaration ban all guns. It also bans all weapons, including bats and knives—even helmets.
Mincing no words, Northam compared this event to that of Charlottesville in which a racist white supremacist drove his vehicle into a crowd, tragically killing Heather Heyer. This parallel the governor is attempting to draw between Charlottesville and Richmond is not only inaccurate but dangerous. Supporting one’s right to self-defense is not white nationalism.
Nevertheless, Northam touted dangerous threats “similar to what has been seen before other major events such as Charlottesville.”
According to Northam, there are armed militias preparing an attack on the capitol, complete with drone strikes. Seriously.
“These are considered credible, serious threats by our law enforcement agencies,” Northam said, citing claims that “armed militia groups” plan on “storming our Capitol” and “weaponizing drones.”
Organizers of the protest, Virginia Citizens Defense League, disagree and have openly disavowed violence as a means of seeking change. They seek change through legislation instead.
As the Richmond Times Dispatch reports:
Monday’s rally is being organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which says it expects as many as 50,000 people to arrive on the steps of the Capitol to protest gun control legislation Democratic lawmakers are proposing.
VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said in an interview Wednesday that he has encouraged peaceful demonstrations by rally participants. At the same time, he said the group plans to challenge Northam’s decision, which he believes goes beyond the governor’s legal authority.
“We believe it is illegal what he is doing,” Van Cleave said. “At this point, we’re going to try to take the governor to court. So it may mean guns aren’t banned on Monday.”
“The rally is going on no matter what.”
This is not some rogue organization planning a ragtag rally in Virginia’s capitol. They actually have the support of multiple sheriffs, lawmakers, and police chiefs who say that Northam is the one to blame. Multiple senators have come forward pointing out the obvious that banning guns and declaring a state of emergency “may be serving to heighten rather than assuage tensions.”
They also pointed out that he may be breaking the law in his declaration of a state of emergency.
“We are not confident Governor Northam is adhering to the limitations placed on the governor’s authority under the Code of Virginia,” Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City; Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover; and Senate Republican Caucus Co-Chairman Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, said in a joint statement.
Others pointed out the obvious unconstitutional nature of the declaration and subsequent weapons ban.
“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,” House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah said.
Hopefully all sides maintain peace during this event and lawmakers realize the mass of people they created who do not want their rights to self-defense impeded. Hopefully, no outside instigators show up either and turn this peaceful rights-flexing event into chaos either. Northam thinks this will be the case, saying he believed the VCDL “may have unleashed something much larger, something they may not be able to control.”
In response, Van Cleave put the blame back on him.
“Excuse me, the governor caused all of this stuff,” Van Cleave said. “This is on him, not on us. All of these people are stirred up because of what he is doing, trying to remove guns from law-abiding citizens.”