Virginia officials wary of gun rights rally as Lobby Day begins

Virginia officials wary of gun rights rally as Lobby Day begins
Demonstrators stand on the Capitol grounds ahead of a pro gun rally Monday in Richmond, Virginia. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia officials prepared for a large gun-rights rally at the state Capitol Monday morning as Lobby Day began under heightened security.

As crowds grew in Richmond, Virginia State Police and the Richmond Police Department were bracing for the rally, hosted by the Virginia Citizens Defense League. The group is opposing legislation that would limit access to firearms across the state, CNN reported.

The group chartered about 50 buses statewide so people could come to the capital, WSLS reported.

Content Continues Below

Annually Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Virginia Citizens Defense League holds Lobby Day to advocate for gun rights, NBC News reported. The event normally attracts a few hundred demonstrators, but this year’s rally is expected to be larger.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a temporary state of emergency at Capitol Square after he enacted a gun ban for the rally after reports of possible violence during the demonstration, WRIC reported. Northam was concerned over extremist and white nationalist groups disrupting the peaceful demonstrations with violence, similar to the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, CNN reported.

Police were searching people’s belongings early Monday as they descended upon Capitol Square, according to WRIC.

Fences, blockades, emergency vehicles and tactical units were at the capital when the crowd began arriving, WTOP reported. The Federal Aviation Administration decided to restrict flights over the Capitol after Northam said weaponized drones could be deployed, NBC News reported.