Backed by the first Democratic-controlled Virginia legislature in over 20 years, Governor Ralph Northam vowed this week to implement new gun control laws, infuriating gun rights advocates who plan to respond with a rally. thousands of armed citizens.
Northam, who is leading the push for stronger gun laws in his state, said he wants to avoid a repeat of violence that erupted at a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, when a march by white nationalists erupted and led to the death of a counterprotester.
"We have received credible intelligence from our law enforcement agencies that there are groups with malicious plans for the rally that is planned for Monday", Northam told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday.
Northam didn't go into specifics on what threats the state had seen, but he did mention the prospect of people storming the Capitol, and the possibility of groups "weaponizing drones" over the area.
Northam thanked the NRA for hosting a hosting peaceful event on NRA Lobby Day and called on the the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) to hold a "peaceful event as they have done in the past".
Gov. Ralph Northam delivers the State of the Commonwealth address at the Virginia State Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Richmond.
Since the election, some officials in almost all of Virginia's 95 counties have declared they would not enforce new gun laws, calling themselves "sanctuary cities" for gun rights - adopting a term first used by localities opposed to harsh treatment of illegal immigrants.
On official, speaking to the news agency, cited a posting that included a photo of an AR-15 and said there are "great sight angles from certain buildings" near Capitol Square. One woman was killed and several more were injured when a vehicle plowed into a group of counterprotesters.
Newly empowered Democrats in the General Assembly voted Friday to ban guns at the Capitol and a legislative office building, saying the move was needed to protect public safety.
Northam's declaration will also ban items like helmets and shields, items that some white nationalists carried in Charlottesville.
Some of the bills include universal background checks on guns, an assault rifles ban and a "red flag" law that would give judges the authority to order an individual to temporarily turn in their weapon if they are deemed a threat.
Some localities have declared themselves "Second Amendment Sanctuary Cities" and pledged not to enforce state gun restrictions. Gun owners are descending on local government offices to demand they establish sanctuaries for gun rights.
The change in legislative control has made Virginia a key target for people on both sides of the gun-rights debate, one of America's most polarizing issues.