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Virginia GOP House leader: No place for ‘hate or violence’ at Richmond gun-rights rally

Posted at 12:19 AM, Jan 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-19 00:30:07-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The GOP leader of Virginia's House of Delegates urged those planning to attend the gun-rights rally on Lobby Day in Richmond to peacefully assemble.

An unprecedented show of force by gun-rights activists, who are angry over the state's new Democratic majority leadership and its plans to enact a slew of gun restrictions, is expected at the state capitol Monday.

House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert issued the following statement Saturday:

"Lobby Day is a time for people to peacefully assemble and petition their government. It is not a place for hate or violence. Any group that comes to Richmond to spread white supremacist garbage, or any other form of hate, violence, or civil unrest isn't welcome here. Thousands of law-abiding Virginians simply want to have their voices heard at the seat of government.

"House Republicans reject any attempt by any group to infuse any kind of twisted or extreme worldview into this fundamentally democratic exercise. So there's no mistake, this is my message to any group that would subvert this event: you are not welcome here. While we and our Democratic colleagues may have differences, we are all Virginians and we we will stand united in opposition to any threats of violence or civil unrest from any quarter."

Second Amendment groups have identified Virginia as a rallying point for the fight against what they see as a national erosion of gun rights.

The Supreme Court of Virginia denied late Friday the petition by plaintiffs seeking to overturn Gov. Ralph Northam’s temporary firearms ban at Capitol Square during the rally.

Northam declared a temporary emergency ban on all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square Friday through Tuesday ahead of the rally.

"We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies of threats of violence surrounding the demonstration planned for Monday," Northam said during a Wednesday news conference. "This includes extremist rhetoric similar to what has been seen before major incidents, such as Charlottesville in 2017."

Northam said militia and hate groups, some from out of state, plan to come to Virginia's Capitol to "disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence."

Examples, according to Northam, include "threats of storming our Capitol," weaponizing drones over Capitol Square and individuals conducting surveillance operations on Capitol entrances and exits.

"Organizers of the rally have been planning this for some time and I welcome them to their Capitol and I believe they intend this to be a peaceful rally," Northam added.

The Republican Party of Virginia called Northam’s temporary state of emergency "a direct infringement on the right of the People to keep and bear arms,"

"The Republican Party of Virginia condemns any and all legislation that takes aim at the Second Amendment," said RPV Chairman Jack Wilson.

After Northam’s announcement, gun control groups cancelled their annual advocacy day because of safety concerns.

Northam stressed the ban was temporary and will end when the state of emergency ends.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.