RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following deadly protests in Charlottesville back in August, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order temporarily suspending permits for protests at the Lee Monument in Richmond.
As a result, protesters in September were allowed near, but not on Lee Monument Circle.
For months, a state task force worked on coming up with new rules for permits at the Lee Statue aimed at protecting the public while protecting first amendment rights. Last week, the governor announced the enactment of those rules which includes limiting crowd size and banning firearms.
“The governor does not have the authority to ban guns at the monument,” said Phillip Van Cleave with the gun rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League. “There is no state law granting him such power.”
Van Cleave says the group has no stance on the statues but believes the governor is overstepping his power by banning guns at any rally.
“There were lots of guns at the past rally, nobody got shot. Guns were not the issue there,” Van Cleave said.
Van Cleave said their attorneys are currently looking at the policy and weighing a legal challenge.
“We don’t want any more expansion of gun control especially without the approval of the General Assembly,” said Van Cleave.
He says he believes banning guns will just make the rallies more unsafe.
“If you think you can get criminals to leave their guns at home good luck with that, so we want the good people to be able to protect themselves wherever they are,” said Van Cleave.
We reached out to the governor’s office who sent us this response.
“The Governor’s task force consulted legal and constitutional experts and developed a set of regulations that will allow Virginians to exercise their rights to free speech at the Lee Monument in a way that is safe for them and the public. We have a responsibility to learn and adapt after the hate and violence in Charlottesville and these regulations are a product of that effort.”