Thousands of gun-rights supporters flooded the Virginia Capitol on Monday as part of an effort to urge state lawmakers to reject new measures that would regulate the sale of firearms.
The rally, was made up of supporters who are opposed to the new gun regulations. Supporters displayed signs reading "Come and Take it" or wore orange "Guns save lives" stickers, while others openly carried military-style semiautomatic rifles.
Despite warnings from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam that out-of-state groups and militias may incite violence, the protests remained civil with, a heavy police presence watching rally goers as they lined up to enter the state capitol.
Northam declared a state of emergency on Friday that is scheduled through Tuesday, and banned all weapons, including firearms, from the area around the Capitol building after law enforcement received "credible" threats of violence. Six members of a violent neo-Nazi group known as "The Base" were arrested by the FBI last week in Maryland and Georgia. Three of the men were allegedly planning to attend the rally.
Many shops in the area have closed out of caution for the rally on Monday, as barricades lined the streets. Some have feared the protests will escalate into a repeat of the violence seen at the 2017 'Unite the Right' Charlotteville protests, in which one person was killed after a neo-Nazi rammed his car into the crowd, killing a counter protester.
Gun-rights advocates say planned gun regulations being pushed by Democrats who took control of the Statehouse last year, will eventually result in attempts by the government to take away guns from the public. Laws being advocated by Virginia Democrats include limiting handgun purchases to one a month, universal background checks, a ban on military-style rifles and a bill that would allow so-called 'red flag' laws to proceed in which law enforcement will be granted authority to take guns from anyone who is deemed dangerous to themselves or to others around them.
Activists could be heard chanting "We will not comply" as they surrounded the security fence at the Capitol, NBC News reported. The crowd was mostly white and diverse in age, with many coming in on chartered buses from all over the state.
There have been no reported signs of violence while the rally is underway.
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