A Richmond Circuit Court judge upheld Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's executive order temporarily banning guns on Capitol Grounds to prevent violent uprisings at a gun rally scheduled for Monday, despite pushback from pro-gun groups.
Judge Joi Taylor denied a lawsuit brought forth by the Virginia Citizens Defense League -- a pro-Second Amendment nonprofit group and organizer of the "Lobby Day" rally -- as well as Gunowners of America seeking an injunction against the Democratic governor's ban.
David Browne, an attorney representing 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 because carrying guns is a form of symbolic speech.
The court disagreed, and Taylor wrote in a three-page opinion filed Thursday that "the Capitol Grounds ban [on weapons] does not impinge upon a right protected by the Second Amendment."
Northam defended the ban after the ruling saying: “I took this action to protect Virginians from credible threats of violence. These threats are real — as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.”
The court's ruling came hours after the FBI announced they had arrested three people in Maryland with ties to a violent white-supremacist group, who allegedly intended to attend the rally and commit acts of violence against blacks and Jews. The suspects also discussed ways to make improvised explosive devices and their desire to create a white “ethnostate,” in encrypted online chat rooms, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.
Northam implemented the ban Wednesday based on "credible intelligence" from "mainstream channels, both offline and online, such as alternative dark web channels used by violent groups and white nationalists from outside Virginia," which law enforcement says have "malicious plans" that include storming the state Capitol building and stirring up violence at Monday's rally.
The gun groups filed an appeal to the judge's decision late Thursday.