The Virginia Citizens Defense League, the gun rights group organizing a large protest in Richmond next week, is considering legal action to block what it believes is an unlawful emergency declaration by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to ban firearms from the protest site, according to Bearing Arms.
On Wednesday, Northam declared a state of emergency that banned people from carrying guns on state Capitol grounds, claiming the measure was necessary to guarantee safety when thousands of pro-Second Amendment demonstrators gather next week — and likely a significant number of counterprotesters.
In order to declare such an emergency, Northam appealed to a 2012 law that grants him authority to ban guns "to the extent necessary to ensure public safety in any place or facility designated or used by the Governor, any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, or any other governmental entity as an emergency shelter or for the purpose of sheltering persons."
Northam's application of the law means he is attempting to classify the area around the Capitol as a shelter, an interpretation even one of the law's co-authors finds perplexing.
"So the Governor has declared the Capitol Grounds a "Shelter" in order to get around the law," wrote former Virginia delegate Mike Watson. "I'm curious how many times a 14 acre plot of land has been designated an emergency shelter?"
So the Governor has declared the Capitol Grounds a "Shelter" in order to get around the law. I'm curious how many… https://t.co/AMoNqVc2TP— Mike Watson_Virginia (@Mike Watson_Virginia) 1579131467.0
https://t.co/SdJPH1j3L2 And per COV sheltering strategy, Capitol Square does not meet the qualifications of an emer… https://t.co/9jcBdABy1s— Mike Watson_Virginia (@Mike Watson_Virginia) 1579190936.0
There is the question of whether the VCDL has enough time to get a legal injunction blocking the emergency declaration, with the protest scheduled to take place Monday.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the VCDL, has urged all protest participants to avoid engaging with counterprotesters and authorities, and discouraged militia groups from providing security, instead emphasizing that police can and will handle that.
"Lobby Day is a peaceful event about gun rights and NOTHING ELSE," Van Cleave wrote in a statement.