According to Phillip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, attorneys are likely to file suit as early as Thursday to seek an injunction blocking Governor Ralph Northam’s gun ban on the grounds of the state capitol during next Monday’s Lobby Day, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of gun owners to the state capitol.
Back in 2012, Virginia lawmakers approved a measure that limits the governor’s ability to regulate any aspect of gun ownership during a state of emergency. Here’s what the law says.
Nothing in this chapter is to be construed to:
(3) Empower the Governor, any political subdivision, or any other governmental authority to in any way limit or prohibit the rights of the people to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of Virginia or the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, including the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, sale, or transfer of firearms except 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;
So, the only place where firearms can be banned by the governor in a state of emergency are “places or facilities” designated as an emergency shelter for the purpose of sheltering persons. In his proclamation declaring a state of emergency, Northam referred to Capitol Square as a shelter.
To provide for the shelter and safety of state employees who work on or near the Virginia State Capitol and those who come to peacefully assemble, and consistent with the General Assembly’s prohibition on weapons in the Virginia State Capitol and the Pocahontas Buildings, and Executive Order 50 (McAuliffe), which prohibits firearms in offices occupied by executive branch agencies, no weapons, including firearms, may be carried or possessed on any land, real property, or improvements owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia within the area bounded by Broad Street, Ninth Street, Bank Street and Governor Street in the City of Richmond, Virginia, as well as any Commonwealth-owned parking lots for Virginia’s Department of Transportation, the Madison Building, the Monroe Building, the Patrick Henry Building, Washington Building, the Jefferson Building, and the Oliver Hill Building.
I’m not an attorney, but even the original co-author of the 2012 law thinks Northam is going beyond what the law allows.
So the Governor has declared the Capitol Grounds a "Shelter" in order to get around the law. I'm curious how many times a 14 acre plot of land has been designated an emergency shelter?
— Mike Watson_Virginia (@MikeWatson_VA) January 15, 2020
Watson says he’s concerned that there won’t be enough time to get this case before a judge. If the VCDL does decide to seek an injunction, as expected, they’d need to do it fairly quickly Thursday morning in hopes of getting an emergency hearing on Friday.
If the ban remains in place, Van Cleave says he believes the Capitol Police will do their best to ensure as easy an entrance to the capitol grounds as possible. There will be one entrance point with multiple magnetometers set up, and the Capitol Police will allow about 10,000 inside the space where guns are banned. Just beyond the capitol grounds on Ninth Street, however, there will be no ban on firearms, and so those who wish to lawfully carry are being asked to do so there.
Phillip Van Cleave is scheduled to join me on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co. later today, and hopefully we’ll learn more about any litigation as well as the latest plans for Monday morning.