A gun range in Virginia isn’t subject to closure under Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order and can reopen, a judge ruled Monday.
The Hill reports, “amid the COVID-19 pandemic a circuit court judge ruled the constitutional right to bear arms meant the state did not have the authority to order the business to close.”
The ruling comes in a case the SafeSide gun range and gun rights groups brought against Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) stay-at-home order.
In March Northam had included indoor shooting ranges among the businesses to be temporarily shuttered to stop the spread of COVID-19. Northam ordered residents to temporarily avoid unnecessary travel and large gatherings as well as the closure of nonessential businesses, including shooting ranges.
SafeSide, Gun Owners of America, the Association of Virginia Gun Ranges and the Virginia Citizens Defense League accused the state of violating the rights of residents afforded by the Second Amendment.
“The Governor has no such power. He is barred from closing shooting ranges under the Virginia ‘Emergency Services and Disaster Law,'” the groups said in the suit. “But even more importantly, his closure order infringes on rights recognized and protected by Article I, 13 of the Virginia Constitution and the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
“It does not matter that the Governor has issued an emergency declaration or declared a state of emergency, as no elected official has the discretionary authority to suspend the protections the People wrote into their Constitution which also created the office in which the Governor serves,” the suit continued.
Attorney General Mark Herring (D) argued the governor did possess the “constitutional authority to protect the Commonwealth by taking decisive action in a crisis.” Herring also reportedly argued that the Constitution did not acknowledge a right to “operate an indoor shooting range.”
In his ruling siding with the gun range in the case, the judge said the Second Amendment superseded the governor’s emergency authority, according to the AP.
The Lynchburg shooting range can reopen immediately as long as its owners can maintain social distancing and enhanced cleaning measures.
According to The Virginian Pilot, Richard Schragger, a law professor at the University of Virginia, said the ruling only applies to the Lynchburg gun range, but the reasoning could apply across the state and other gun ranges could bring a similar lawsuit.