The state of Virginia is shaping up to be a gun-rights battleground, as Trump-enraged Democrats prepare to take over the capital after winning majorities in the November elections and promising to attack the right to bear arms.
The standoff is going national, reports the Washington Post, with gun rights advocates from across the country urging armed protesters to descend on Richmond in two weeks. Gun-control advocates also plan to turn out Jan. 20 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — for what is a traditional day of citizen lobbying at the state Capitol.
What began as several Virginia counties declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries has jumped the state’s borders and become an online movement. Freedom-supporting websites and pundits are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against a national trend of undermining gun rights.
Virginia is a Southern state with strong rural traditions and few gun laws. Guns are a friction point between conservatives there and urban and D.C.-area leftists who handed power to Democrats in recent elections.
A Nevada-based group called the Oath Keepers said it is sending training teams to help form posses and militias in Virginia. The leader of a Georgia militia called Three Percent Security Force has posted videos and calls to arms on Facebook, urging “patriots” to converge on Richmond.
The YouTube “American Joe Show” warned that Virginia will cut the power grid to stop the army of protesters — one of a host of rumors spreading online.
Law enforcement and public safety officials say they are monitoring the situation, including several instances of threats toward Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat who infamously appeared in his college yearbook in a mocking negro costume yet still commands much media respect.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, the grass-roots organization planning the rally, said it has told the state to prepare for as many as 50,000 or even 100,000 people. Police say they have not seen indications that turnout will be that high.
Lawmakers said they have been in regular contact with state, city and Capitol police, and VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said he is keeping lines of communication open so all sides are prepared.
Van Cleave has appealed to his supporters not to come with long guns and politely suggested that militia members are welcome but do not need to provide security. Police will take care of that, he said, “not to mention enough citizens armed with handguns to take over a modern midsized country.”