Virginia Gov. Ralph “Coonman” Northam saw his dictatorial control crumble in recent days after a court ruling allowed one of the state’s indoor ranges to reopen. Realizing additional court challenges would probably not go well for him, he has issued a new order “allowing” indoor ranges to reopen on Friday, May 15th.
Northam had originally closed indoor ranges in the state, classifying them as “entertainment,” despite federal courts ruling that practicing with guns is a fundamentally protected Second Amendment right.
Judge F. Patrick Yeatts of the 24th Judicial Circuit of Virginia ruled in favor of a Lynchburg firing range that challenged Northam’s statewide shutdown order. He said the governor’s emergency powers are limited under Virginia law and cannot restrict the “otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, sale, or transfer of firearms.”
“The governor appears to argue that, when he declares a state of emergency, he can ignore any law that limits his power, even laws designed to limit his power during a state of emergency,” Yeatts wrote. “The Court cannot agree with such an expansive interpretation of the Governor’s authority.”
Yeatts limited the scope of his ruling even as he granted a temporary injunction barring the state from closing Lynchburg Range & Training LLC. The decision does not apply to all ranges in the state, but guns-rights groups that helped file the suit said it lays the groundwork for eventually overturning the statewide ban. Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said it could have a domino effect as other gun ranges file suit.
“We’re weighing our options because our ultimate goal is that we want all indoor ranges free of this,” Van Cleave said. “What the judge laid out was great reasoning why, really, none of the ranges should be falling under this.”
Of course, while Governor Northam might hate gun rights for the little people in his state, he isn’t stupid. He knew other courts would likely rule similarly for other ranges, and eventually all indoor ranges in the state, potentially threatening his other lockdown orders.
So Northam opted to cut his losses. Again, from the Washington Free Beacon covered the story:
Northam released an executive order on Friday that will allow indoor shooting ranges to operate starting May 15 so long as they follow strict guidelines. Ranges that reopen must operate at half capacity, require face coverings for employees, and adopt enhanced disinfecting for commonly used surfaces and rental equipment. Ranges that flout the rules could face misdemeanor charges.
The announcement came after a state court ruled that Northam lacked the authority to shutter an indoor gun range in Lynchburg. Second Amendment activists said the decision set the stage for potentially unravelling the Democrat’s emergency power. Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League which filed suit against the range shutdowns, said the case demonstrated Northam’s flawed handling of the crisis, including his classification of the facilities as “entertainment” venues.
“We consider both the reclassification of indoor shooting ranges to no longer be ‘entertainment,’ and their reopening this coming Friday to be a victory,” he told the Washington Free Beacon. “They should have been classified as ‘essential’ from the beginning.”
Even with Northam’s restrictions (50% capacity, and rigorous cleaning after each customer), this marks a big win against Emperor Ralph’s continued attempts to thwart the right to keep and bear arms in the Old Dominion.