Governor issues state of emergency, including Capitol grounds weapons ban

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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Governor Ralph Northam says because of credible threats forwarded to his office by local law enforcement, he is putting into place a state of emergency from Friday night until Tuesday in Richmond. Weapons will not be allowed on Capitol grounds during that time.

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Monday - Martin Luther King Day - is when a gun rights rally is scheduled to be held in Richmond.

Virginia Republicans oppose Governor's Capitol gun ban

Northam and police agencies say they have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with "white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend."

The governor’s declaration prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies resources to keep demonstrators, policymakers and "all Virginians" safe.

The emergency declaration will be in place Friday, January 17 at 5 p.m. until Tuesday, January 21 at 5 p.m.

Despite the declaration, Northam says he has no plans to call in the National Guard.

Northam said, "I believe wholeheartedly in the constitutional rights of citizens to come to their state representatives and make their views known. I also believe in the right to debate and the right to assemble. And I believe in the right to bear arms. But what we have seen and heard in recent weeks has the potential to go far beyond these constitutionally protected rights."

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The governor continued, "For years, Virginia citizens who want to speak up and defend gun rights have peacefully assembled here at our Capitol. In fact many of them did so this past Monday. But 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."

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said, "Our approach Monday will be the same as with any demonstration. We will ensure the right to assembly and speech, and prioritize the protection of life and property."

He continued, "I hope it is not lost on anyone that the person we celebrate on Monday, the Rev. MLK, gave his life in the nonviolent pursuit of equal rights for all Americans. So let me be clear. Regardless of the day, or the event, we expect everyone who lives, works and visits our great city to conduct themselves peacefully."

Democratic lawmakers have proposed gun control bills in the 2020 General Assembly that are opposed by many gun rights advocates.

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