- An Executive Order from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency days before a gun rights demonstration is expected to attract thousands
- The EO claims that some demonstrators could be coming from out of state with the purpose of “violence, rioting, and insurrection”
- From January 17 to January 20, all guns and weapons are banned from the Capitol grounds
In the days leading up to thousands of armed demonstrators coming to Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency that bans firearms and other weapons from the Capitol grounds from January 17 through January 20.
Governor Ralph Northam Declares Emergency
The demonstration, organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, is expected to gather thousands of armed demonstrators. Demonstrators are also expected from out of state. Gun rights supporters have been opposed to efforts by Virginia Democrats to pass a list of gun control laws supported by Northam. Following the November 2019 elections, Democrats took control of the Virginia legislature for the first time since 1993.
An Executive Order from Northam claims “credible intelligence gathered by Virginia’s law enforcement agencies indicates that tens of thousands of advocates plan to converge on Capitol Square for events culminating on January 20, 2020.” The EO goes on to read, “Available information suggests that a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection.”
The VCDL has claimed their intentions are to have a peaceful gathering but Northam claims the event “constitutes an emergency as described in § 44-146.16 of the Code of Virginia (Code).” Northam is directing state and local governments to render appropriate assistance for the event. In the EO, Northam references the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that ended with the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Last year the man responsible for taking Heyer’s life, James Alex Fields Jr. received life in prison plus 419 years for the attack.
Under the state of emergency, Northam has activated the Virginia Emergency Operations Center and the Virginia Emergency Support Team to coordinate the provision of assistance for the events. The emergency support team will facilitate emergency services assignments to other agencies in the area.
Where Does The EO Prevent Weapons
The EO prohibits firearms and other weapons from being carried in offices occupied by executive branch agencies. This includes “any land, real property, or improvements owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia within the area bounded by Broad Street, Ninth Street, Bank Street and Governor Street in the City of Richmond, Virginia, as well as any Commonwealth-owned parking lots for Virginia’s Department of Transportation, the Madison Building, the Monroe Building, the Patrick Henry Building, Washington Building, the Jefferson Building, and the Oliver Hill Building.”
The list of banned weapons during the state of emergency includes any weapon defined in Virginia Code § 18.2-308, including stun guns. While pocket knives with a folding blade of less than three inches are allowed, other “weapons” listed in the EO includes, “but is not limited to, sticks, torches, poles, bats, shields, helmets, caustic substances (i.e., pepper spray), hazardous materials, scissors, razor blades, needles, toy guns, toy weapons, fireworks, glass bottles, laser pointers, aerosol containers, baseballs, softballs, UAVs/Drones, or any item that can inflict bodily harm that is visible, other than firearms.”