“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.” And with that, on Monday, April 27, Virginia Circuit Judge F. Patrick Yeatts laid waste to Governor Ralph Northam’s invocation of a king’s authority. Yeatts ruled that the SafeSide gun range may open and ordered police to leave it alone. The ruling was limited, for now, to that particular range.
Dry Cleaners Yes, Gun Ranges No
With his signature on executive order 53, Northam banned the operation of indoor firearms ranges. Listed in a class of businesses called “indoor public amusement,” they were ordered to shutter on March 23. Dry cleaners, beer stores, and lawn and garden equipment retailers faced no such limitations, for they are essential. With a stroke of his pen, Northam was able to close all the indoor gun ranges in the state. Given his utter devotion to separating Virginians from their guns and gun rights, well documented here at Liberty Nation, the pro-gun community fought back.
The Virginia Citizens’ Defense League (VCDL) with Gun Owners of America sued Northam for violating the law and the rights of his charges. Instead of seeking guidance from the Commonwealth’s courts, Northam tried to have the case heard by a liberal federal court judge in Northern Virginia rather than a state court judge near Lynchburg. “Northam is gaming the system and is clearly afraid of the suit being heard in a Virginia court under Virginia law,” said VCDL President Philip Van Cleave. The gun-rights proponents challenged the removal to the federal court and won.
Hon. F. Patrick Yeatts
Northam could hardly have fared worse: He got a judge who tore through his tyrannical power grab. Yeatts quoted the Virginia constitution, which provides that “a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state, therefore, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed … ” The judge went on to make the plain meaning apparent — that trained means using shooting ranges.
The ruling is limited in one respect: It pertains only to the SafeSide range in Lynchburg, not all indoor gun ranges throughout the state. Why is that? Well, this is a temporary restraining order; in developing his findings, Yeatts took notice that the range is capable of being operated safely, with various features that respect the state’s emergency orders. He wrote, “SafeSide has shown a willingness to conform to with what is commonly called ‘social distancing’” and to limit the number of patrons inside.
Will other ranges follow suit, suing Northam for the right to open? This case gives them a solid roadmap to victory. In an emailed statement, the VCDL said:
“As for the other indoor ranges that are still closed, VCDL is disappointed that they were not covered under the ruling and we are weighing our legal options at this time. Our goal is to get all indoor ranges the option of reopening as soon as possible.
“We have not heard what the Commonwealth is going to do in regards to today’s ruling.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.