Virginia plans emergency gun ban at Capitol ahead of protest: AP

(Reuters) - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday plans to declare a temporary emergency banning all guns and weapons from the area around the Capitol in Richmond ahead of a major gun rights demonstration set for Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Northam feared a repetition of the violence that broke out in August 2017 amid a white supremacist rally and counterdemonstration in which anti-racist protester Heather Heyer was killed in a car attack, the AP reported, citing two unnamed state officials who were briefed on the plans but not authorized to speak publicly about them.

The governor's office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for confirmation.

Gun-rights advocates including militia groups and ultraconservative activists are planning a "Lobby Day" rally on Monday, seeking to block gun control legislation backed by Northam, a Democrat, and the Democratic-controlled state legislature in both the General Assembly and Senate.

Last week Virginia lawmakers approved a new gun policy prohibiting firearms inside the Capitol and a nearby office building, but did not extend the ban to Capitol Square, the public space outside that includes monuments to prominent Virginians and the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial.

The governor saw credible threats of potential violence and extremism after a series of provocative online postings from out-of-state pro-gun and militia groups that plan to attend, one official cited by the AP said.

One posting included a photo of an AR-15 and said there were "great sight angles from certain buildings" near Capitol Square, the official said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama)

01/15/2020 13:54

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