FACT CHECK: Is Governor Ralph Northam Planning To Cut Off Electricity And Communication Capabilities Ahead Of Gun Confiscation?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook shows a screen grab of an article that claims Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam plans to “Cut off electric… telephones… faxes… cellular phones & cellular data, Internet, so #Virginia residents cannot reveal what is happening once gun confiscation begins to take place.”

“This needs to go viral…..for the sake of the people in Virginia,” reads the caption. “This is the MO, have alternate comm’s in place and plans for rally points.”

Verdict: False

The claim originated on a website known for spreading conspiracy theories and hoaxes. Both the Governor’s office and the Virginia National Guard have debunked the notion that Northam plans to confiscate firearms by force.

Fact Check:

Reports circulating on the internet in recent weeks have claimed Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, plans to confiscate certain firearms by force. The claims come after legislators introduced several gun control measures in the Virginia state legislature in recent months.

Virginia Senate Bill 16, introduced in November, proposes a ban on the possession, transport and sale of assault weapons. It expands the state’s definition of assault weapons to include, among other types of guns, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns with revolving cylinders, according to the bill.

One image posted on Facebook Dec. 16 features a screen grab of a tweet from @Cindyseestruth, warning Virginia residents that Northam is going to take extreme measures to confiscate those firearms. It has been shared more than 9,500 times.

“WARNING… VIRGINIA GOV RALPH NORTHAM SET TO.. Cut off electric… telephones… faxes… cellular phones & cellular data, Internet, so #Virginia residents cannot reveal what is happening once gun confiscation begins to take place,” reads the screen grabbed tweet. “#PrepareYourselves.”

The claim originated in an article posted by the Hal Turner Radio Show, a website run by the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated white supremacist Hal Turner. He’s known for peddling conspiracy theories and hoaxes on his site, making the claim immediately suspect.

“Virginia Governor Reportedly Orders Plans To Cut Electric, Phones, Internet For Gun Confiscations!” reads the article’s headline.

“The source is a staffer in Virginia state government who asked for, and was given anonymity for fear of losing their job,” Turner told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

A number of Twitter bots, including @Cindyseestruth, have reportedly helped promulgate the story on the site, according to data from Hoaxy, a website that tracks bot activity.

There’s no evidence that Northam plans to cut off the state’s electricity or suppress communication capabilities to enforce the proposed gun control legislation. Both the governor’s office and the Virginia State National Guard have refuted the notion that he plans to confiscate guns by force.

“In this case, the governor’s assault weapons ban will include a grandfather clause for individuals who already own assault weapons, with the requirement they register their weapons before the end of a designated grace period,” said Alena Yarmosky, the press secretary for Northam’s office, in an interview with The Virginia Mercury.

Yarmosky also told PolitiFact that the claim was “absolutely false,” adding, “People who spread lies like this should be ashamed of themselves.”

The Virginia National Guard, who Turner claims will carry out the confiscation plan, also tweeted that they have received no such requests from the governor to enforce state gun control legislation.

“We have not received any requests from the Governor, or anyone on his staff, about serving in a law enforcement role related to any proposed legislation,” reads the tweet.

Statements from both the Governor’s office and the Virginia National Guard contradict Turner’s unreliable sourcing. The DCNF rates the claim as false.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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