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Why armed protesters were not charged during Richmond rally

Posted at 11:47 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 07:01:43-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The ordinance reads "no guns," and "no ammunition,” so several viewers asked, why was there no enforcement during Monday's ‘2A’ rally in Richmond?

CBS 6 legal expert Todd Stone said the answer was in the fine print.

Despite posting signs throughout downtown Richmond banning weapons near permitted events or those that would require a permit, many openly carried weapons in Richmond on Gun Lobby Day. Richmond Police put out a statement on social media addressing the issue, seemingly saying the groups were small enough that officers could not intervene.

"It's reasonable for people to wonder why firearms were present when with the police, their first duty is to keep the public safe and secondly make arrests when appropriate,” said Stone. “At a gathering like that, if you arrest someone for a misdemeanor, it might set off a deluge of events and cause problems that could put others in jeopardy."

Stone said, like a lot of things in police work, officers have discretion.

"Police have the discretion as to whether they want to charge people or not and they're going to base that on crowd size, volatility, and what's in the interest of public safety,” said Stone. “That's their number one job."

Monday's march was peaceful, even though there was an unrelated shooting on the outskirts.

Stone said that spoke volumes about how police prepared.

"Protesters should take solace in the fact there wasn't a bunch of arrests,” said Stone. “I mean, that's the big concern when an ordinance is passed that, ‘hey, we are going to lose our right to carry a firearm.’ This shows you that police as a practical matter are exercising discretion and good judgment to respect constitutional rights on many occasions."

CBS 6 has reached out to Richmond Police and the Mayor's Office for more details on the ordinance and its enforcement.