KEY POINTS

  • The Virginia Citizens Defense League and Gun Owners of America filed the emergency appeal Friday morning to over Gov. Ralph Northam's gun ban ahead of Monday's rally
  • Their request for an injunction was struck down in the Circuit Court by Judge Joi Taylor
  • The groups lawyers will now take their appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia 

Gun rights groups filed an emergency appeal Friday, challenging a judge’s ruling to uphold Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s firearm ban at a pro-gun rally planned for Monday in Richmond that is expected to draw thousands of protesters.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League and Gun Owners of America filed the appeal after an initial request for an injunction against the ban was struck down by Circuit Judge Joi Taylor. She said Thursday Northam had the authority to ensure “the safety and welfare” of residents under state law.

“Without relief from this court, petitioners and thousands of other rally participants will be irreparably denied their right to bear arms,” the groups’ lawyers said in the appeal to the state's high court. David Browne, one of the attorney’s representing the groups, also said the block violates First Amendment protections since carrying guns is a form of “symbolic speech.”

Taylor cited previous rulings by various courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court that said Second Amendment protections are not unlimited. She said upholding Northam’s ban would not cause “irreparable harm.”

“I am pleased that the injunction has been denied,” Northam said after Thursday’s ruling. He pointed to the arrests in Delaware and Maryland on Thursday of three neo-Nazis who had been planning to attend the rally armed with at least one automatic weapon and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

“I took this action to protect Virginians from credible threats of violence,” Northam said. “These threats are real — as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.”

Monday’s rally is a protest against gun control legislation introduced by Democrats in the Virginia Senate. The bill would put a once-a-month limit on handgun purchases, require universal background checks on all gun purchases and allow localities to ban guns from public spaces.

“The citizens in these last two elections have spoken,” Democratic Sen. Dave Marsden told reporters.

Republican senators have argued that the new legislation is an “assault” on Second Amendment protections and would “entrap” innocent people while failing to stop criminals fronm obtaining weapons.

“This may be what you think is safety, but it is not,” Republican Sen. Bill Stanley said.

handgun In this image, National Rifle Association members check a pistol in the Remington display at the 146th NRA annual and exhibits in Atlanta, Georgia, April 29, 2017. Photo: Getty Images/Scott Olson