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Gun-rights activists gear up for show of force in Virginia

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    The Virginia state Capitol building is surrounded by fencing, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 in Richmond, Va., in preparation for Monday’s rally by gun rights advocates. Gun-rights groups are asking a judge to block the Virginia governor’s ban on firearms at a massive pro-gun rally scheduled for next week. Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday, Jan. 15, announced a state of emergency and banned all weapons from the rally at the Capitol. (Dean Hoffmeyer/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

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    The statue of pioneer woman Laura Ingles is shown behind the fencing put up around the Virginia Women’s Memorial on Capitol Square in Richmond, Va., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. The fencing was to protect the monuments from the large crowd expected for the pro-gun rally Monday, Jan. 20. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

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    A tent is set up to house metal detectors at the entrance to Capitol Square in Richmond, Va., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. Everyone entering the Square on Monday, Jan. 20 for the pro-gun rally must pass through this point. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

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    These undated photos provided by Floyd County, Ga., Police show from left, Luke Austin Lane of Floyd County, Jacob Kaderli of Dacula, and Michael Helterbrand of Dalton, Ga. FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said Friday, Jan 20, 2020, that agents assisted in the arrests of the three Georgia men linked to The Base, a violent white supremacist group, on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and participating in a criminal street gang. Details of their cases have been sealed by a judge, Floyd County police Sgt. Chris Fincher said. (Floyd County Police via AP

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    FILE - In this Aug. 12, 2017 file photo, people fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Gov. Ralph Northam said some of the rhetoric used by groups planning to attend a Pro-Gun Rally in Richmond on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 is reminiscent of that used ahead of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. One woman was killed and more than 30 other people were hurt when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters there. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP, File)

Published January 19. 2020 05:00PM

 

RICHMOND, Va. — Police are scouring the internet for clues about plans for mayhem, workers are putting up chain link holding pens around Virginia’s picturesque Capitol Square, and one lawmaker even plans to hide in a safe house in advance of what’s expected to be an unprecedented show of force by gun-rights activists.

What is provoking their anger in this once reliably conservative state is the new Democratic majority leadership and its plans to enact a slew of gun restrictions. This clash of old and new has made Virginia - determined to prevent a replay of the Charlottesville violence in 2017 - ground zero in the nation’s raging debate over gun control.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League’s yearly rally at the Capitol typically draws just a few hundred gun enthusiasts. This year, however, thousands of gun activists are expected to turn out. Second Amendment groups have identified the state as a rallying point for the fight against what they see as a national erosion of gun rights.

“We’re not going to be quiet anymore. We’re going to fight them in the courts and on the ground. The illegal laws they’re proposing are just straight up unconstitutional,” said Timothy Forster, of Chesterfield, Virginia, an NRA member who had one handgun strapped to his shoulder and another tucked into his waistband as he stood outside a legislative office building earlier this week.

VCDL president Philip Van Cleave said he’s heard from groups around the country that plan to send members to Virginia, including the Nevada-based, far-right Oath Keepers, which has promised to organize and train armed posses and militia.

Extremist groups have blanketed social media and online forums with ominous messages and hinted at potential violence. The FBI said it arrested three men linked to a violent white supremacist group Thursday who were planning to attend the rally in Richmond, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss an active investigation.

Democrats have permanently banned guns inside the Capitol, and Gov. Ralph Northam declared a temporary state of emergency Wednesday that bans all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square, during the rally to prevent “armed militia groups storming our Capitol.” Gun-rights groups asked the Virginia Supreme Court to rule Northam’s declaration unconstitutional, but the court on Friday upheld the ban.

Northam said there were credible threats of violence - like weaponized drones being deployed over Capitol Square. On Friday, the FAA issued a temporary flight restriction, including for drones, over Capitol airspace during the rally.

The governor said some of the rhetoric used by groups planning to attend Monday’s rally is reminiscent of that used ahead of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. One woman was killed and more than 30 other people were hurt when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters there.

The Virginia State Police, the Virginia Capitol Police and the Richmond Police are all coordinating the event and have plans for a huge police presence at Monday’s rally that will include both uniformed and plainclothes officers. Police plan to limit access to Capitol Square to only one entrance and have warned rally-goers that they may have to wait hours to get past security screening.

Nonessential state staff were being told to stay away. Del. Lee Carter, a Democratic Socialist, said he’s planning to spend Monday at an undisclosed location because of threats he has received.

“I ain’t interested in martyrdom,” Carter tweeted.

Northam lamented that such precautions were necessary for what’s been a peaceful yearly event, but said pro-gun activists have “unleashed something larger, something they may not be able to control.”

House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert said in a statement on Saturday that his caucus rejects any attempt to “infuse any kind of twisted or extreme worldview into this fundamentally democratic exercise.”

“While we and our Democratic colleagues may have differences, we are all Virginians and we we will stand united in opposition to any threats of violence or civil unrest from any quarter,” Gilbert said.

The pushback against proposed new gun restrictions began immediately after Democrats won majorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates in November. Much of the opposition has focused on a proposed assault weapons ban, which would affect thousands of owners of the popular AR-15-style rifles. One version of the bill, which Democrats later disavowed, would have required current owners of the rifles to turn them in or face felony charges.

That bill was the spark that created the massive pushback, according to Sen. Creigh Deeds, one of the few moderate Democrats left in Virginia who represents rural areas.

“That allowed people who like to inflame passions to say, ‘Look, they’re really coming after your guns, they’re coming after you,’” Deeds said.

Thousands of gun owners from around the state packed municipal meetings to urge local officials to declare their communities “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” opposed to “unconstitutional” gun restrictions like universal background checks. More than 125 cities, towns and counties have approved sanctuary resolutions in Virginia.

Gun-control advocates, meanwhile, have also been flocking to Richmond to show their support for the proposed legislation. More than 200 volunteers with Moms Demand Action held a rally on Jan. 6. Gun control became a leading issue in the 2019 Virginia legislative elections after a city employee in Virginia Beach opened fire on his co-workers in May, killing 12 and injuring four others.

Janet Woody, a retired librarian from Richmond and a Moms volunteer, said she believes the proposed package of legislation can help reduce gun violence.

“I just feel so angry and helpless because of all these massacres,” she said. “You can call your legislator or write, but there comes a point where you just have to get out in the street.”

 

 

 

 

Comments
The first thing Democrats did in VA after gaining power? Guns... attack the 2nd Amendment.
Elections have consequences.
We can vote our way in to socialism, but you'll have to shoot your way out of it. That's the reason they need the guns out of our hands.
Make sure you get out and vote 2020
I thought Democrats were all about open boarders, no fences (walls).
No guns for the people, but the National Guard for the one who brought on all of this mess.
Praying all remains peaceful.
Will you please stop pretending that Levite isn’t your account Mike? It’s painfully obvious, especially when “both” of you misspell border the same way.
Yes, we saw the thousands of (mostly men) in Virginia with their powerful guns, manhood extensions if you will strutting around. Are they going to start acting like the Militia of the olden days when they did not participate in actual combat.
Regardless of the number noted yesterday...the fact remains, the majority of voting people in Virginia want Gun-Control.
Mike-Levite - Here is something new for your brain to process if it still has a few cells. How are the 2nd Amendment gun rights people going to defend against the new lethal Drones that may come their/our way. Drones with cheaper, lethal capability. Some with a.i.
The 70+ years Nuclear Weapons War Industry has a new brother...... Drones - Killer Robots...just waiting to get into the hands of whack-os.
I don't oppose the 2nd amendment but I'll never understand the need for these guns. Its an interesting combination of immaturity and insecurity it seems. And a number of them are anarchists....look at the posts on 4chan for this rally, there are a number of them wishing for "boog" which I have come to understand means revolution. Real Americans, not.
So the 2nd amendment is a right to bear arms for hunting? A right to bear arms for what reason? The original intent is easy to discern if you consider what the founders just came through.
Immaturity is the ones who can't put that together. It's boarder line... dumbness.
We have tons of rights we don’t choose to exercise. I own hunting weapons but they are locked away. I understand that carrying a gun or keeping one in the nightstand makes me and my family less safe. I don’t choose to bring weapons designed to take human life into my home.

In 2020 the belief that owning guns somehow will keep the government at bay is silly too.
Girl,
I think you wanted to insert (mostly old white men). You folks will vote our way in to socialism, but we'll have to shoot our way out of it.
Please back up the statement, "the majority of voting people in Virginia want Gun-Control."
Please cite a socialist country that “shot their way out” and are no longer socialist. Remember we are not talking about communism.
Back it up. What country today confiscated guns and became socialist?

For example, Sweden is usually called out as socialist yet their gun ownership rate is almost as high as the US. How is that possible Mike?
Mike my comment about voters in Virginia came from a Pew Poll taken in Virginia.
Sorry I don't have it in front of me now.
Socialism....keep up the B.S. Mike....The younger generation know the score.
The life you lead during Mayberry St. is long gone. Call it what ever you want.....desperate Republicans will say anything.

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