VA Democrat Governor Banning Guns from Virginia Capitol Grounds

Democratic presidential candidate former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg left arrives at a coffee shop with Richmond mayor Levar Stoney in Richmond Va. Tuesday Jan. 7 2020

Northam, who is leading the push for stronger gun laws in his state, said he wants to avoid a repeat of the violence that erupted at a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, when a march by white nationalists erupted and led to the death of a counterprotester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer. "These are considered credible, serious threats by our law enforcement agencies", Northam said at a Capitol news conference.

Militia groups from around the state and elsewhere in the country, as well as other gun rights groups, have rallied against the measures since Democrats won control of the state's government previous year.

Last week, Virginia lawmakers approved a new gun policy prohibiting firearms inside the Capitol and a nearby office building.

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On a Facebook page organizing the gun rights demonstration hosted by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, several commenters expressed frustration at Northam's move to restrict guns from the capitol grounds.

The group said its lawyers are reviewing the governor's emergency declaration but did not have immediate additional comment.

The governor saw credible threats of potential violence after a series of provocative online postings from out-of-state pro-gun and militia groups that plan to attend, one official told The Associated Press news agency.

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The emergency declaration will mean road closures around the Capitol and limited access to the grounds, including a security checkpoint with metal detectors.

Northam's planned announcement comes days after Democratic leaders used a special rules committee to ban guns inside the Capitol and a legislative office building.

The official said the state does not have intelligence that the groups are planning a specific act of violence, but said Northam has grown increasingly concerned about numerous ominous-sounding postings on social media from forces outside Virginia. One woman was killed and several more were injured when a vehicle plowed into a group of counterprotesters.

Gun laws have become a dominant issue this legislative session and there's been a heavy police at the Capitol.

The ban will include helmets and shields.

Although there are clearly many opponents to the proposed legislation among Virginia residents, Democrats control the entire legislature, leaving little for gun rights advocates to do except mobilize and protest. Gun owners are descending on local government offices to demand that officials establish sanctuaries for gun rights. They're opposed to efforts by Virginia Democrats - who've just taken over control of the Virginia legislature following the November 2019 elections - to pass a slate of gun control bills backed by Northam.

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