Virginia Gov. Northam declares state of emergency ahead of gun rights rally

January 16, 2020


Matthew Hoy

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, best known for appearing either in blackface or a Ku Klux Klan outfit in college, has declared a state of emergency ahead of next Monday's planned gun rights rally at the state capitol.

Northam's emergency order will ban weapons of all kinds, including firearms, from the Capitol grounds starting Friday and continuing through Tuesday. He said the order was necessary to protect public safety because of potential violence from out-of-state groups at a gun-rights rally scheduled for Monday.

Over at The Prepared, Jon Stokes makes the case that Northam's declaration is more likely to spur potential violence rather than minimize it by banning the otherwise legal carry of firearms for self-defense.

Carrying long guns openly at the protest was already illegal, so many of those planning to attend (estimates range from tens of thousands to over one hundred thousand) have been planning to concealed carry, judging by the talk on the gun-related Facebook pages, reddits, and forums I follow. But there are also many others (it’s difficult to know how many) who have announced plans to open carry in defiance of the law. Some of these are from militia groups, and a few are even from out-of-state. They’re planning to show up in full “battle rattle,” in some instances with their faces covered (a felony in VA), as an act of civil disobedience to the existing gun laws.

Call it a foreseeable result of the law of unintended consequences.

This morning, former Virginia Delegate Mike Watson threw a wrench into Gov. Blackface's pointing out a bill that he and Tony Wilt co-sponsored in 2012 that became law and is currently on the books and limits the governor's powers during a declared state of emergency. The applicable portion reads:

Nothing in this chapter is to be construed to:

3) Empower the Governor, any political subdivision, or any other governmental authority to in any way limit or prohibit the rights of the people to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of Virginia or the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, including the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, sale, or transfer of firearms except to the extent necessary to ensure public safety in any place or facility designated or used by the Governor, any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, or any other governmental entity as an emergency shelter or for the purpose of sheltering persons;

Some critics on Twitter have stopped reading at "except to the extent necessary to ensure public safety" and declared the governor has the right to ban firearms "to ensure public safety." However, an accurate, complete reading of the provision shows that power only applies to locations being used as an emergency shelter.

The Capitol grounds are not being used as an emergency shelter.

It is unclear what will happen between now and Monday. The Virginia Citizens Defense League has a legal team looking at what can be done about Northam's gun ban, and the group believes that it is illegal.

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