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Judge denies request to block Gov. Northam's weapons ban for gun rally

Gun rights activists rally at a 'Guns Save Lives' rally in Richmond, Va. | Photo: Capital News Service
Gun rights activists rally at a 'Guns Save Lives' rally in Richmond, Va. | Photo: Capital News Service(WHSV)
Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 3:33 PM EST
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UPDATE (4:40 p.m.):

A judge has ruled that Gov. Ralph Northam's State of Emergency banning guns from the Virginia Capitol grounds during a pro-gun rally scheduled for next week is constitutional.

Gun rights groups, including the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which is the main organizer of the rally, sued the governor, seeking an injunction against the ban on firearms.

Northam had

as he declared a state of emergency over threats of “armed militia groups storming our Capitol."

The judge's order Thursday came hours after the

, two of whom authorities said had built a functional assault rifle using several parts and purchased large quantities of ammunition.

David Browne, an attorney for the gun-rights groups, argued that prohibiting rallygoers from carrying guns would violate their Second Amendment right to bear arms and their First Amendment right to free speech. Browne said carrying guns is a form of symbolic speech.

Virginia's solicitor general told the judge that law enforcement identified "credible evidence" that armed out-of-state groups planned to come to Virginia with the possible intention of participating in a "violent insurrection," meaning that Northam was well within his authority to ban weapons in response to those threats.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor ruled on Thursday afternoon, upholding the ban on weapons of all kinds.

While the court challenge was going on, Virginia senators were debating a package of gun-control bills.

The Democratic-led Senate advanced legislation limiting handgun purchases to once a month, universal background checks on gun purchases, and allowing localities to ban guns in public buildings, parks and other areas.

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Gun-rights groups asked a judge Thursday to block Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from banning guns on Capitol grounds during a massive pro-gun rally scheduled for next week.

Northam on Wednesday

, citing threats that armed militia groups were planning to attend. The Virginia Citizens Defense League and Gunowners of America filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking an injunction against the ban on firearms.

The lawsuit came the same day the

, two of whom authorities said had built an assault rifle using several parts and purchased large quantities of ammunition.

David Browne, an attorney for the gun-rights groups, argued that prohibiting rallygoers from carrying guns would violate their Second Amendment right to bear arms and their First Amendment right to free speech. Browne said carrying guns is a form of symbolic speech.

Virginia's solicitor general, Toby Heytens argued that the governor was well within his authority to declare the state of emergency and ban weapons after law enforcement identified "credible evidence" that out-of-state groups planned to come to Virginia armed, with the possible intention of participating in a "violent insurrection."

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor said she would issue her ruling later Thursday.

While the court challenge was going on, Virginia senators were debating a package of gun-control bills.

The Democratic-led Senate advanced legislation limiting handgun purchases to once a month, universal background checks on gun purchases, and allowing localities to ban guns in public buildings, parks and other areas.

Democrats said the measures were needed to improve public safety. Republicans decried the legislation as an assault on the Second Amendment.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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