The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s ban on guns on Capitol grounds ahead of a massive pro-gun rally on Monday.
The ban took effect Friday at 5 p.m. and will remain in place through Monday. The state’s high court refused to overturn the ban, saying pro-gun lawyers failed to make a case for doing so.
“The only information we have on which to resolve the weighty issues raised by the parties are pleadings accompanied by cursory attachments. Accordingly, the petition is refused,” six of the court’s seven justices wrote.
President Donald Trump on Friday weighed in on the ban in Virginia. “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!”
Democrats took over both chambers of the Virginia legislature in November, and quickly pushed anti-gun laws through the assembly.
On Thursday, lawmakers in the state Senate passed the first pair of bills in a wave of gun-control legislation that is set to come up for votes. One bill would restore the state’s previous one-handgun-a-month rule, while the second would allow local governments to ban guns in public buildings, parks and at permitted events — including political protests. The vote was straight party line, 21-19.
Northam, who was recently ensconced in a controversy over whether he once wore blackface while in college, announced the gun ban on Wednesday, citing “credible intelligence” that some groups plan to get violent at the rally.
“We have no intention of calling out the National Guard,” Northam said. “We’re not going to cut off people’s electricity. We’re not going to go door to door and confiscate people’s weapons. We’re going to pass common sense legislation that will keep guns out of dangerous hands and keep Virginia safer.”
A Virginia judge on Thursday ruled that a firearms ban can remain in place during the pro-gun rally on the Capitol grounds in Richmond and gun rights advocates immediately appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
“Without relief from this court, petitioners and thousands of other rally participants will be irreparably denied their right to bear arms,” the groups’ attorneys argue in their appeal.
But Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Friday urged the state Supreme Court to reject the appeal.
“Determined to prevent another tragedy, the Governor issued a carefully limited Executive Order. The Order does not prevent anyone from speaking, assembling, or petitioning the government. Instead, it temporarily precludes private possession of firearms in a sensitive public place during a specified time to protect public safety and safeguard the rights of all citizens to peacefully speak, assemble, and petition their government,” Herring said in a legal brief.
“The plaintiffs argued the firearms ban violates the First and Second Amendments and that Northam didn’t have the authority to impose it. According to The Associated Press, Judge Joi Taylor said in her ruling the governor has the authority under state law to take action related to the ‘safety and welfare’ of the state. Taylor also cited rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court that the right to bear arms can be subject to limits,” CBS News reported.
With Democrats in control of both legislative chambers and the governorship, Republicans are powerless. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is probably the first assault on the Second Amendment. And we’re going to see many after that,” said Republican Sen. Bill Stanley. He argued that the bill giving localities control over guns in public spaces would create “little pockets here and there where guns are good and guns are bad.”