Northam to ban guns from Capitol grounds

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addresses a commemorative meeting of the Virginia General Assembly on the 400th anniversary of the first House of Burgess meeting at a church in Historic Jamestown Va. on the site where the meeting took place Tuesday July 3

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addresses a commemorative meeting of the Virginia General Assembly on the 400th anniversary of the first House of Burgess meeting at a church in Historic Jamestown Va. on the site where the meeting took place Tuesday July 3

"We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies that there are groups with malicious plans for the rally that is planned for Monday", Northam told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday. That ban did not include Capitol grounds, which are under the governor's control and are where a huge number of gun-rights advocates are expected to rally Monday.

Last week, Virginia legislators approved a new gun policy prohibiting firearms inside the Capitol and a nearby office building, but did not extend the ban to Capitol Square, the public space outside that includes monuments to prominent Virginians and the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial.

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A huge crowd of both pro-gun and gun-control advocates are expected to rally at the Capitol on January 20.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, VCDL, a group that describes itself as a "non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to advancing the fundamental human right of all Virginians to keep and bear arms", plans on holding a rally.

The group said its lawyers are reviewing the governor's emergency declaration but did not have immediate additional comment. Todd Gilbert lamented that "there are legitimate concerns of a few bad actors hijacking the rally".

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AP reveals that they were alerted to the coming ban by "two state officials who were briefed on the plans".

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

Virginia law enforcement officials have been criticised for their planning and response to the 2017 Charlottesville rally. One woman was killed and several more were injured when a auto plowed into a group of counterprotesters.

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

Democrats have a full majority at the state house for the first time in a generation and have promised significant new gun restrictions, including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a red flag law that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed to be unsafe to themselves or others.

Gun legislation the new Democratic majority is expected to pass - some of which passed just this week out of the Senate Judiciary Committee - has stirred up gun rights advocates not just in Virginia, but from out-of-state. One local sheriff even vowed to "deputize thousands of our law-abiding citizens to protect their constitutional right to own firearms". "Unfortunately, they have unleashed something much larger, something they may not be able to control".

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