RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam plans to declare a temporary emergency Wednesday banning all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square ahead of a massive rally planned next week over gun rights.
That's according to two state officials who were briefed on the plans but not authorized to speak publicly about them.
One official says the Democratic governor plans to announce the plans at a news conference Wednesday afternoon because of credible threats of potential violence and extremism.
Gun rights supporters are planning to sweep into Richmond on Martin Luther King Day. Organizers from the Virginia Citizens Defense League are predicting as many as 130,000 armed protesters from across the country could rally in Capitol Square on Martin Luther King Day. But they insist they're trying to avoid the kind of deadly chaos that swept Charlottesville in the summer of 2017.
"This is just average gun owners and average Virginians coming out to support them," Stewart Rhodes, founder of far-right group Oath Keepers, said. "It has nothing to do with white nationalism."
Democrats are in the midst of working on gun reform legislation with the party now controlling both the Commonwealth's house, senate and governorship.
Virginia Citizens Defense League President, Philip Van Cleave, is urging protesters to bring only their legal, concealed handguns, and to leave their rifles, body armor and camouflage behind.
"This is a public thing, we have no control over who shows up," Van Cleave said. when asked if any groups were unwelcome.
Van Cleave has been meeting with Capitol Police in hopes of heading off trouble.
A police spokesman said it's legal to openly carry long guns and pistols on the grounds of the state capital. And if you have a valid conceal carry permit, you can take them many places inside the General Assembly.