Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is determined to declare emergency in order to ban individuals from carrying weapons prior to a rally scheduled for next week over firearm rights, reports say.
Northam is planning to announce the move during a press conference on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported, citing two state officials familiar with the plans but unauthorized to speak about them publicly.
The governor’s decision comes after state Democratic leaders’ utilized a special rules committee to prohibit guns inside the Capitol and legislative office buildings, The Hill reported.
One official also told the AP that Northam decided to ban all guns on the state Capitol’s grounds after getting reports that pro-gun and militia groups were planning to attend a gun-rights rally at Capitol Square next week.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, the organizers of the rally, have said that the demonstration will draw thousands to the area, The Washington Post reported. The group’s Facebook event page indicates that more than 5,000 say they will attend.
An official noted to the AP that Northam does not have any intelligence that the demonstration could become violent. But he said that the governor had become troubled by some of the posts he saw on social media pertaining to the protest.
The Virginia governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
Northam’s announcement will also include a ban on other items that could be used as weapons, including helmets and shields.
Virginia Democrats vowed to reintroduce a slate of gun control measures after gaining control of both houses of the General Assembly in last November’s elections.
The Post noted that hundreds of guns rights activists showed up to the Capitol on Monday to protest the ban of firearms in the Capitol and legislative office building and to testify against the first gun-control bills introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The committee advanced four bills to the State Senate that day. Included was a measure requiring background checks on all gun purchases and one allowing law enforcement to temporarily take firearms from individuals deemed to be a risk.
“For the first time in decades, commonsense gun safety measures are finally advancing in the Virginia legislature,” Northam said on Twitter. “This is the first step in the process — Virginians are demanding real action on gun violence, and they are watching.”
Security at the Capitol has significantly increased amid the start of the new General Assembly session. State Police has been providing backup for Capitol Police and crews have been creating crowd-control barricades around the Capitol, The Post noted.