A Virginia state senator on Friday warned gun rights advocates that they were “being set up” by authorities to be branded as extremists and arrested.
Amanda Chase, a Republican representing the state’s 11 District, issued the warning in a lengthy Facebook post ahead of a pro-gun rally expected to draw thousands around Virginia’s capitol building on Monday.
“If people show up wearing any kind of uniform, patch or other symbol on their clothing signifying they belong to a militia and something goes wrong, you could/will be held as a domestic terrorist,” she said.
“If anyone steps out of line, all it takes is one person, it may even be a government plant….if that plant does anything to disrupt the rally, you could/will be arrested as a domestic terrorist.”
Chase noted that on Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and temporarily banned weapons on Capitol grounds. He said “armed militia groups planned to storm the Capitol” and cited credible “threats of violence.” On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld his prohibition.
Chase suggested the governor’s move was part of a long-running effort by authorities — along with the media — “to make the entire [gun rights] movement look like insurrection.”
“It will be used to put the rest of the nation on notice of what will happen to you, if you resist,” she said. “They are kicking things into high gear. Military veterans were/are even listed as potential domestic terrorist[s].”
Amanda Chase and the Second Amendment
Monday’s rally was organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a prominent Second Amendment group that typically holds an annual “Lobby Day” to meet with lawmakers. The group has said this year’s event will be focused on opposing sweeping gun control measures that could be enacted next week by the Virginia government, which is under Democratic control for the first time in a generation.
— Basil John (@BasilJohn8News) January 20, 2020
The FBI on Thursday arrested three members of a small neo-Nazi group who allegedly hoped to ignite a race war through violence at the gathering.
At the Virginia Capitol, law enforcement beefed up security measures, erecting temporary barricades and fencing and saying attendees would be screened before being allowed into the event. According to the Washington Post, the Federal Aviation Administration instituted a ban on airspace over the capitol out of concern for aerial threats, including weaponized drones.
In her Facebook post, Chase agued that gun rights advocates have been in the government’s crosshairs since the Patriot Act was passed under President George W. Bush. The sweeping legislative response to the Sept. 11 attacks defined domestic terrorism but attached no penalties.
“We were told not once, but several times by the current President, ‘It’s Not Me they are after, It’s You, The American People,'” she said. “Their actions over the last three years have shown you he was right, they are coming after us full speed ahead and they aren’t even trying to hide it anymore.”
Chase concluded: “Sic semper tyrannis, keep your head on a swivel and know what’s going on around you at all times, at Lobby Day 1/20/20. Everyone be safe out there….Thus always to tyrants.”
“Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack”
While Chase’s Facebook post was more conspiratorial than most of the rhetoric by mainstream conservatives, she was far from alone in seeing Virginia Democrats as laying siege to the Constitution.
President Donald Trump on Twitter Friday characterized the planned gun regulations “a very serious attack” on the Second Amendment.
“Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the great commonwealth of Virginia,” Trump said “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away.”
The National Rifle Association, which is not involved in organizing Monday’s rally, also blasted Virginia’s Democrats, who received campaign contributions last year of more than $2.5 million from Everytown for Gun Safety, started by former New York mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.
“Anti-gun billionaires who invested millions in the 2019 Virginia elections expect a return on that investment,” said NRA official D. J. Spiker.
“The NRA is fully prepared to work to defeat Governor Northam’s gun grab — but also work to find compromise.”
Philip Van Cleave, leader of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said Sunday that his Virginia Citizens Defense League was being flooded with national support for its stand against Northam and the Democrats.
“People are looking at this and saying, ‘This is a canary in the coal mine. If they’re coming after rights in Virginia, then they’ll be coming for ours as well,'” he said.
Van Cleave has rejected calls for violence, but he has urged tens of thousands of armed militia leaders from across the United States to be in Richmond’s streets to provide security for his group.
A spokesman for the Capitol police said Van Cleave had worked closely with law enforcement officers on rally plans.
Blowback to gun control
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has vowed to push through new gun control laws. He is backing a package of eight bills, including universal background checks, a “red flag” law, a ban on assault rifles and a limit of one handgun-a-month purchase.
The state’s gun owners responded with a movement to create “sanctuary cities” for gun rights, with local government bodies passing declarations not to enforce new gun laws.
Since the November election, nearly all of Virginia’s 95 counties have some form of “sanctuary,” a term first used by localities opposed to harsh treatment of illegal immigrants.
The idea has quickly spread across the United States, with over 200 local governments in 16 states passing such measures.
Despite the pushback, proponents of stronger gun laws say they are clearly winning the argument with the public, based on who got voted into office, and blame the tension on gun supporters.
“We’re in this situation because the gun lobby has been pushing their message that we’re going to take all guns away — they’ve been fanning this fire for years,” said Michelle Sandler, a Virginia state leader for Moms Demand Action, the grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety.
It is not Northam’s first bid to tighten state gun laws. He called a special legislative session last summer after the massacre of 12 people in Virginia Beach, but the Republicans who then controlled it refused to vote on his proposals.
(Reuters contributed to this report)