LYNCHBURG, VA –-(Ammoland.com)- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam tried to circumvent the state court system by attempting to move a case brought by SafeSide Tactical shooting range of Lynchburg, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), and Gun Owners of America (GOA) against the Commonwealth’s shutdown of indoor shooting ranges due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) to the federal court level.
SafeSide Tactical has been hit hard by the Governor’s forced shutdown. The state-mandated closure forced the Lynchburg based shooting range to lay off more than half of its staff. Other indoor shooting ranges from across the state faced similar issues stay afloat during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The two organizations accused Northam of breaking a state law (Virginia Emergency Services and Disaster Law) that prevents the Governor from using an emergency to violate the Second Amendment or the state constitution. In the suit, the gun-rights group argued that the shutdown order for ranges violated Article I Section 13 of the Virginia Constitution. The Virginia Solicitor General argued that the lawsuit was a Second Amendment case in disguise. It reasoned since the language in the Second Amendment of the Federal Constitution is similar to the verbiage of Article I Section 13 of the Virginia Constitution that the federal courts should have jurisdiction over the case.
Most legal experts agreed that the Governor’s ploy to move the case out of state court was a longshot to succeed. VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said that Governor Northam was “terrified” of the Virginia Court system. Northam hoped that the historically anti-gun federal court system would hear the case instead of a court in Lynchburg, VA, because it would give the state a better shot of victory.
The court allowed both sides of the issue to submit briefs for and against the federal court hearing the case. Many legal experts believe that if the federal court chose to hear the case, it would be a massive shift in power from the states to the federal government. It would mean the federal government would have jurisdiction over state constitutions if it included similar language to the federal constitution.
The federal court rejected Virginia’s arguments and remanded the case back for the state court to hear and rule on the merits of the proposed injunction. Gun-rights advocates celebrated the court’s decision.
“This Court has no jurisdiction over this action because it presents quintessential questions of state law traditionally adjudicated by state courts,” the ruling read.
Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge F. Patrick Yeatts scheduled a hearing on the GOA, VCDL proposed injunction for 9 AM today. Because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the court heard the case over a video conference. Both sides stated their case to the judge. The state argued that the ranges were non-essential entertainment venues, and the Governor has the power to shut down non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Attorneys for the gun-rights group argued that the Virginia State Constitution protected ranges under the right to bear arms.
Judge Yeatts said he would issue his ruling by noon on Monday.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC and is the co-host of The Patriot News Podcast which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on leftist deplatforming methods and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, on Facebook at realjohncrump, or at www.crumpy.com.