There’s a big Second Amendment rally coming up on Monday in Virginia, planned to be held at the capitol in Richmond. In advance of the event, Governor Ralph Northam decided to declare a state of emergency and ban all firearms in Capitol Square where the event is to be held. The Governor cited “credible threats” of violence from white supremacists as the reason for the ban. His decision was immediately challenged and sent all the way to the state supreme court, and on Friday night they issued a ruling upholding Northam’s ability to enforce such a ban.
The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled Gov. Ralph Northam’s state of emergency order banning weapons at the Capitol for Monday’s gun rights rally can stay in place.
Organizers of the rally petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the executive order and allow demonstrators to carry firearms at the event…
In her written decision, Taylor cited rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts that found the Second Amendment right to bear arms is not unlimited. Because of that, she wrote, the gun-rights groups would not “suffer an irreparable harm” sufficient to justify the injunction.
Both the original lower court ruling from Judge Joi Taylor and the state supreme court ruling are incredibly vague. The courts are citing the Governor’s power to ensure “the safety and welfare” of the state, as well as quoting the United States Supreme Court, saying the Second Amendment is “not without limits.”
Both of those things are true, but the limits have to be reasonable. And you’re not supposed to be able to suspend people’s constitutional rights every time you believe there’s a credible threat. There’s apparently some white supremacist group called “The Base” that’s been making noises about attending the rally and starting trouble. If that’s the case, then keep an eye out for them on Monday and arrest them if they so much as lift a finger to cause any violence. (The FBI already arrested three of their members in Maryland this week who were planning to go to the rally.)
What these rulings do is codify the idea that any Democratic governor, mayor or other officials can suspend the Second Amendment any time they feel like it simply by declaring a state of emergency. Some blue states and cities will likely soon be in perpetual states of emergency at this rate. I would argue that the real emergency here is the erosion of the constitution and the chilling of free speech.
None of this is to say that an outbreak of violence isn’t possible. We learned that previously with the events in Charlottesville where some actual neo-nazis and Klansmen showed up. But it’s the Governor’s job to keep the peace and protect his citizens. That’s what the State Police are for.
Adding to the confusion was the announced cancellation of an annual vigil held each year by a gun-control group at the same location shortly after the Second Amendment demonstration. They too cited threats of violence as the reason to stay away.
I’m guessing that the upshot of all this will be even more unrest among gun rights advocates, particularly in the southern and western reaches of the state. And that’s probably going to make West Virginia’s offer to switch sides and join their state look all the more tempting.