(RICHMOND, Va.) — Law enforcement officials will be on high alert Monday as activists from around the country are expected to descend on Richmond, Virginia, to rally against the state’s progressive gun control proposals. Gun rights groups such as the Virginia Citizens Defense League and Gun Owners of America are planning a protest on the state’s Lobby Day. Lawmakers in Virginia have proposed a ban on assault rifles and a “red flag” law, which would give officials the power to confiscate weapons from an individual who poses a threat, among other gun control measures. Law enforcement officials and Gov. Ralph Northam warned that this planned show of force has put Virginians in danger. On Sunday, people sported signifiers for gun rights on bumper stickers and clothing as they quietly filled into downtown Richmond ahead of the rally. There were no overt signs of white supremacists or counter-protesters. On Monday, police will not be separating counter-protesters within the fenced area in Capitol Square, officers told ABC News.On Wednesday, Northam issued a state of emergency and banned all weapons from Capitol grounds from Friday until Tuesday night. Northam said he had received credible intelligence that hate groups and militias were planning violent attacks in Capitol Square that mirrored the ones seen before the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally where three people were killed. “They are not coming to peacefully protest, they are coming to intimidate and to cause harm,” the governor said at a news conference.Gun rights supporters tried to block the state of emergency, arguing that it infringed on their right to rally; however, a judge denied their motion and their subsequent appeal before the ban went into effect Friday evening. The Virginia Citizens Defense League has asked its members to obey the state of emergency. But the group said those who plan to attend Lobby Day and protest outside the protected areas should come armed. “For every one gun owner on the Capitol grounds, we need another two to five people outside,” the league said in a statement. President Donald Trump showed his support for the activists on Twitter, writing in a tweet Friday night, “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia.” Virginia’s House Republican leader, however, called for calm and urged all groups attending Monday’s Lobby Day to be peaceful. “Any group that comes to Richmond to spread white supremacist garbage, or any other form of hate, violence, or civil unrest isn’t welcome here,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter. Recent FBI activity highlighted the threats facing Lobby Day. On Thursday, the agency arrested three reputed members of a white supremacy group who were allegedly armed with several weapons and intended to travel to Richmond “in anticipation of a possible race war,” law enforcement sources told ABC News. A spokesperson for the FBI’s Richmond field office on Sunday told ABC News in a statement: “In response to a request for assistance from the Virginia Division of Capitol Police, FBI Richmond has been working with our local and state law enforcement partners in relation to threats of violence at the rally on January 20, 2020. We will provide assistance as deemed appropriate to ensure public safety.”State, Capitol and Richmond police said they will have a strong presence in Capitol Square and will set up checkpoints to ensure the weapons ban is enforced and everyone is safe. The emergency order is slated to end Tuesday evening, but the gun control debate will continue over the next few months. Northam and Democratic state leaders said they remain committed to enacting new laws that would curtail gun violence in the state. Several Virginia towns, however, have made resolutions declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” and passed resolutions that disavow any state or national gun control measures. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
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