RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Photos of several armed individuals in downtown Richmond prompted police to address a question for many this Lobby Day: What about the city’s gun ban?
Dozens of armed Second Amendment supporters and other groups, including the Proud Boys, the Original Black Panthers and Boogaloo Boys, made their way to Richmond on Monday for lobby day, a day meant to give citizens an opportunity to speak and address their concerns with legislators.
Due to concerns of potential civil unrest in the capital, the Virginia Department of General Services closed Capitol Square for a week and denied the applications of the four groups who sought to hold events: Care in Action – Virginia Chapter, Virginia Center for Public Safety, Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority.
Richmond police reiterated that the city’s ordinance banning guns during public events apply only to those that are permitted by officials or that would need a permit, such as demonstration or parade.
“In reference to city ordinance banning firearms at gatherings where posted, firearms are banned at permitted events/events that would require a permit. Gatherings that would require a permit are groups of 11+ people obstructing pedestrian/vehicular traffic in vicinity of signs,” Richmond police said in a statement on Twitter.
Despite images of several armed individuals in the city, police told 8News that no charges have been filed and that the department has no information about complaints as of 2 p.m. One firearm was confiscated by officers Monday near the Robert E. Lee monument after RPD said a man was in possession of a concealed weapon without a permit at W. Grace Street and Allen Avenue.
Police cited city code prohibiting guns in buildings and other places owned by the city in its statement Monday, including code that defines three different types of demonstrations: a parade, a public assembly and a spontaneous event.
“Spontaneous event means an unplanned or unannounced coming together of people, animals or vehicles in a parade or public assembly which was not contemplated beforehand by any participant therein and which is caused by or in response to unforeseen circumstances or events occasioned by news or affairs first coming into public knowledge within 15 days of such parade or public assembly,” city code states.
The decision to deny permits could allow armed protesters near the Virginia State Capitol and downtown Richmond to simply claim they are taking part in a spontaneous event and have the right to carry their weapon.
“As a reminder, Virginia is and remains an open carry state,” RPD’s statement said. “The Richmond Police Department recognizes the public’s right to assembly and will enforce all laws appropriately.”
Police did not report any citations for violating the city’s ordinance on Monday.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, the gun-rights group that organized a rally that drew 22,000 people to the state Capitol last year, opted for a caravan after its president claimed a “double standard” allowed another group to snag its normal time slot. Those plans didn’t change after the other events were effectively canceled.
City code prohibits individuals from carrying loaded shotguns or rifles in their car on any public roadway, unless it’s a law enforcement officer or military personnel fulfilling their duties.
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