A judge has upheld a ban on firearms at a pro-gun rally scheduled for next week in Virginia, rejecting a request from gun-rights groups who had sued to overturn it.
The Virginia Citizens Defence League and Gunowners of America had filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking an injunction against the ban, which Governor Ralph Northam had imposed on a rally scheduled to take place Monday on the grounds of the Virginia Capitol.
The judge's ruling came hours after the FBI announced the arrest of three alleged white supremacists in Maryland, two of whom authorities said had built an assault rifle using several parts and purchased large quantities of ammunition.
David Browne, an attorney for the gun-rights groups, argued that prohibiting rallygoers from carrying guns would violate their Second Amendment right to bear arms and their First Amendment right to free speech. Browne said carrying guns is a form of symbolic speech.
Virginia's solicitor general, Toby Heytens argued that the governor was well within his authority to declare the state of emergency and ban weapons after law enforcement identified "credible evidence" that armed out-of-state groups planned to come to Virginia with the possible intention of participating in a "violent insurrection."
Heytens said the alleged white supremacists arrested Thursday had discussed travelling to Richmond "to engage in a race war."
While the court challenge was going on, Virginia senators were debating a package of gun-control bills.
The Democrat-led Senate advanced legislation limiting handgun purchases to once a month, requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, and allowing localities to ban guns in public buildings, parks and other areas. The measures largely passed along partisan lines and will now go to the House for consideration.
Australian Associated Press