NewsLocal News


Virginia Supreme Court upholds Northam’s gun ban at Capitol Square

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 19:12:14-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Supreme Court of Virginia denied the petition by plaintiffs seeking to overturn Gov. Ralph Northam’s firearms ban at Capitol Square, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's office announced Friday evening.

This comes after Herring filed a brief  with the Supreme Court of Virginia  Friday in response to an appeal made to that court by plaintiffs seeking to overturn Northam’s firearms ban that went into effect at 5 p.m.

The plaintiffs filed their initial lawsuit challenging the ban in the Richmond Circuit Court on Thursday, but were denied Judge Joi Taylor.

Late Thursday, the plaintiffs filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Virginia. The plaintiffs are made up of the groups Gun Owners of America, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, and three individuals associated with those two groups.

The Supreme Court's two-page ruling in response to an appeal looking to overturn Northam's executive order argued the weapons ban violated the First and Second Amendment rights of the plaintiffs and also argued the governor did not have the authority to enact such a ban.

In denying the appeal, the justices wrote that under the circumstances they were “unable to discern whether the circuit court abused its discretion.”

The order also stated that the circuit court decision was made in less than a day, and the records of the court hearing are limited, with no transcripts or written statements.

The justices said the only information they had to resolve the “weight issues raised by the parties are accompanied by cursory attachments” and as such refused the appeal.

Northam issues temporary state of emergency

Northam announced Wednesday that he was declaring a temporary state of emergency would last from Friday evening until Tuesday evening and it would include a ban of all weapons from the grounds of the Capitol Square. The ban on weapons covers everything from sticks and bats to firearms.

The lawsuit only sought to overturn only the firearm ban.

Northam said this was being done in anticipation of the VCDL’s annual gun lobby day that is scheduled for Monday. Northam said law enforcement had received “credible, serious threats” of violence from out-of-state militia and hate groups. He said some the threats include “storming the Capitol” and “weaponized drones.”

Northam added the threats were similar to what was seen in the lead up to the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville and said he was doing this in order to prevent something like that from occurring again.

During Thursday’s court hearing on the initial appeal, David Browne, the lawyer for the plaintiffs said his clients intended to attend Monday’s event and the ban would infringe upon their First and Second Amendment rights. He also argued that Northam did not have the authority to enact such a ban.

Virginia Solicitor General Toby Heytens argued in favor of upholding the ban and said Northam did have the authority and the plaintiffs rights would not be infringed.