A Virginia circuit court judge has denied gun rights activists’ attempt to block a ruling on a temporary gun ban at the state capitol.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League and Gun Owners of America filed a suit against Gov. Ralph Northam and Capitol Police Chief Anthony Pike, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Pike’s agency would enforce the ban.
Numerous pro-gun rights activists are planning to rally at the capitol on Monday, but Northam, in issuing the emergency declaration on Wednesday, said that there were reports of armed groups threatening to storm the capitol premises.
The declaration means weapons of any kind will be prohibited on capitol grounds from Friday night until Tuesday.
Richmond Chief Judge Joi Jeter Taylor issued the ruling on Thursday, according to the Dispatch. It’s not clear if the groups involved in the lawsuit will file an appeal.
Northam issued a statement following the ruling and defended his declaration.
“I took this action to protect Virginians from credible threats of violence,” he said Thursday. “These threats are real—as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.”
David Browne, who represents the gun rights groups, said Northam’s order “is nothing more than an unconstitutional restraint on rallygoers,” the Washington Post reported. Ahead of the judge’s decision, Virginia Citizens Defense League organizer Philip Van Cleave said Northam “has touched the third rail” and “has motivated people to drive across the state and from other states to come protect our rights,” USA Today reported.
What’s more, the Lobby Day organized by Virginia Citizens Defense League has been held for about 17 years, Browne told the paper. He said there has never been an issue with guns during prior events.
But Northam argued that his office has “received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies that there are groups with malicious plans for the rally that is planned for Monday.” The “intelligence shows the threat of armed militia groups storming our capitol,” he added.
Democrats, who gained majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly in the 2019 elections, said they would carry out a number of gun control measures, prompting numerous sheriff’s offices in Virginia to declare their counties Second Amendment sanctuaries. Sheriff Scott Jenkins of Culpepper County proposed going one step further and vowed to deputize county residents.
On Thursday, the FBI arrested three alleged members of an extremist group in Maryland, and officials told the Wall Street Journal and other outlets that they were going to the pro-gun rally in Richmond and were preparing for a potential race war.
According to a news release from the Department of Justice, the FBI arrested Brian Mark Lemley of Maryland, William Garfield Bilbrough of Maryland, and Canadian national Patrik Jordan Mathews and charged them with the interstate commerce of weapons and, in the case of Lemley and Bilbrough, transporting illegal aliens.