Richmond is bracing for possible clashes as a small pro-Confederate group descends on the Virginia capital for a rally this weekend. The event comes a month after a demonstration in Charlottesville descended into deadly violence. In preparation, the city has banned bats, shields, knives, and poles from the gathering — but not guns.
The reason is the same as why armed militia members and protesters were allowed to patrol the streets of Charlottesville: Virginia is one of 36 states that allows guns at protests, and also prevents municipalities from enacting their own gun-related restrictions.
Most Local Officials Can’t Ban Guns at Protests
On Tuesday, Virginia convened policymakers and legal experts to look for a way to get around the laws, but that effort came up short. Richmond officials have concluded that they can not legally ban firearms from public demonstrations.
Chief Alfred Dunham of the Richmond Police was blunt when he told the public he had no choice but to allow guns. “The same fear you have is the same fear my officers have,” he told several hundred residents at a public meeting on Thursday night. “The only thing I can say is, don’t show up and you don’t have to worry about being shot.” Dunham said he would vigorously enforce gun laws that do apply, like those prohibiting menacing with a weapon, and he vowed to prevent a repeat of Charlottesville’s chaos and violence.