Judge Upholds Weapons Ban at Virginia Pro-Gun Rally

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A judge upheld Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's ban on all types of weapons at a pro-gun rally planned for next week.

Northam announced the ban Wednesday as he declared a state of emergency over threats of "armed militia groups storming our Capitol." He cited threats that armed militia groups were planning to attend.

The judge's order Thursday came hours after the FBI announced the arrest of three alleged white supremacists in Maryland.

The plaintiffs filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Virginia Thursday evening, according to Attorney General Mark Herring's office. A response is expected Friday.

The emergency order bans weapons of all kinds, including firearms, from Capitol grounds starting Friday because of the potential for violence during the rally. But the Virginia Citizens Defense League and Gunowners of America filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking an injunction against the ban.

Gun Lobby Day, scheduled for Monday, is hosted by Virginia Citizens Defense League, which says, "We cannot stress enough that this is a peaceful day to assemble and address our Legislature about protecting our right to keep and bear arms."

But rumors online suggest extremists groups are planning otherwise, suggesting rallies outside of Gun Lobby Day where militia groups encourage people to bring guns.

Northam has said that some of the rhetoric used by groups planning to attend the rally is similar to what was said in the lead-up to a deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

Karen Vaught of Moms Demand Action, a group that aims to prevent gun violence, is planning to go to Richmond to support new gun safety laws. The source of her passion for gun safety predates her: Vaught's parents were students at the University of Texas in 1966 when a gunman climbed to the top of the school's library tower and opened fire. He killed 14 people and wounded dozens of others; a 15th victim died of his injuries decades later.

"I'm much more scared of weak gun laws in Virginia than I am of some extremists spending one day in Richmond," Vaught said.

Tim Hannigan of the Fairfax County Republican Committee is also planning to go to Richmond.

"Whatever finally falls out, as far as what the restrictions are, we will abide by them," he said.

On Thursday, FBI agents arrested a former Canadian Armed Forces reservist and two other men who are linked to a violent white supremacist group and were believed to be heading to the pro-gun rally.

Associated Press/NBC Washington
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