Credible threats of violence as pro-gun rally is held in Richmond, FBI says

Last Updated Jan 20, 2020 7:58 AM EST

The FBI and local law enforcement say they've received credible threats of violence ahead of a gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia, Monday, where Democrats are proposing new gun laws. Tens of thousands of people, including white supremacist groups and militias, may attend.

The FAA has temporarily banned drones flying amid fears of weaponized drones and Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency, temporarily banning all weapons on capitol grounds.

Members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which organized the annual gun rights rally, insist their message is solely to protect the Second Amendment.

"We're against any more gun control that affects everyday law-abiding citizens. We don't need any more gun control, we're not the problem," Philip Van Cleave, president of the organization, told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud.  

Ahead of Monday's event, seven members of the white nationalist group "The Base," which calls for a "race war" to create a "white ethno-state," were arrested across the country. Authorities said some of them were expected to attend the rally.

State officials said they want to avoid what happened at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, when a white supremacist drove a car into a counter protester, killing her.

"Our fears are that the skinheads, and the neo-Nazi groups or white supremacists are going to come in here," said Michelle Wharton, who traveled from New York to show support for the Second Amendment.

Tensions have been rising since Democrats regained control of the state legislature and proposed several gun control bills including limiting handgun purchases and requiring background checks after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach last summer that killed 12.

An anti-gun rally was also planned for Monday, but was cancelled by organizers.

"Why would you take a gun violence survivor or their family into an area where a state of emergency has been declared?" asked Andrew Goddard, who became a gun safety lobbyist after his son survived the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

Mary McCord, the legal director for Georgetown Law's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, said the challenge in a situation like the one in Richmond is balancing "the protection of public safety with the preservation of First Amendment rights."

"It's a blow to the First Amendment that gun safety advocates don't feel safe participating," she said.

Everyone attending the rally will be screened at the sole entrance point. In addition to guns, knives, slingshots, metal knuckles and several other items are also banned.