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Gun rights group threatens legal action against Virginia governor over gun ban at Lee Monument

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe enacts new regulations banning guns at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia. A gun rights group in Virginia is considering taking legal action. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A gun rights group in Virginia is considering taking legal action against Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) for enacting new regulations banning guns at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond.

"The governor does not have the authority to ban guns at the monument,” Phillip Van Cleave of the gun rights group, Virginia Citizens Defense League, told WRIC-TV. “There is no state law granting him such power.”

After the deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, McAuliffe signed an executive order that temporarily suspended protests at the capital city's Lee statue. On Aug. 18, the governor established a task force to review and develop new rules for assemblies permits at the Lee Monument.

McAuliffe announced last week the enactment of the task force's proposed rules for events at the Lee statue.

“We don’t want any more expansion of gun control especially without the approval of the General Assembly,” Van Cleave said, adding that the group's lawyers are reviewing policy and "weighing a legal challenge."

"Guns were not the issue" at the Charlottesville rally, Van Cleave said, where a 20-year-old Ohio man plowed his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19 others. Clashes between the protesters and counterprotesters left at least 16 more injured.

“There were lots of guns at the past rally; nobody got shot." Van Cleave said.

Taking guns out of the hands of peaceful protesters will make the rallies more dangerous, Van Cleave told the news station.

“If you think you can get criminals to leave their guns at home good luck with that, so we want the good people to be able to protect themselves wherever they are,” he added.

The gun rights group says it doesn't have a stance on the whether Civil War statues stay or go.

Who was on the task force?

Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran served as chairman.

Other members included representatives from the Virginia State Police, Virginia National Guard, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, local law enforcement agencies, local governing boards, the Office of the Attorney General, and other relevant state and local agencies.

According to the governor, the permit rules for the Lee Monument were decades old and required updating.

“One of the key findings emerging from the task force is the critical importance of adopting a robust permitting process that involves first responders and all necessary departments in planning and preparation efforts,” Moran said in a news release.

What other rules at the Lee Monument changed?

Assemblies of 10 or more people now require a permit, according to the governor's news release.

● The event capacity is limited to 500 under the new order, versus the previous maximum of 5,000 people.

● The possession of weapons, including firearms, during permitted events is restricted.

● The duration of events is also limited but the length of time is not immediately clear.

The order is in effect for 18 months pending the Department of General Services final review processes, including public input.

One last thing…
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