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Tension Mounts Ahead Of Pro-gun Rally In Virginia

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Tension is mounting in Richmond, where pro-gun campaigners have scheduled a massive gun rights rally on Monday that the Virginia authorities fear could turn violent.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, said they are expecting around 50,000 people to participate in a "Lobby Day" annual event at the state Capitol on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to advocate for gun rights.

Armed militia, right-wing extremists and local anti-fascist movement were expected to attend, reports say.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency in advance of the demonstrations on Capitol Square.

Law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend, Gov. Northam said in the emergency declaration.

The Governor's declaration prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies the resources they need to keep demonstrators, policymakers, and all Virginians safe.

This emergency declaration will be in force until Tuesday 5 PM.

Northam said the authorities have received credible intelligence from law enforcement agencies of threats of violence surrounding the demonstration. "This includes extremist rhetoric similar to what has been seen before major incidents, such as Charlottesville in 2017," he said on Twitter.

The Supreme Court of Virginia has denied the rally organizers' request to block the Governor's Executive Order banning firearms on Capitol Square.

Neo-Nazis were reportedly arrested last week after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.

The rally, featuring supporters of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, comes at a time the United States is going through unprecedented levels of gun violence.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that on an average day, 96 Americans are killed with guns.

On average there are nearly 13,000 gun homicides a year in the U.S., according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence.

America's gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other high-income countries.

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