Richmond, Virginia –-(Ammoland.com)- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam used the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to shut down shooting ranges in the Commonwealth. Virginia law explicitly prohibits the Governor from using a state of emergency to infringe on the right of the people to bear arms.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) specifically list gun stores and ranges as critical businesses, but Northam has decided to ignore the advisory. Also, during the Pandemic, Northam signed several Bloomberg championed anti-gun bills into law, ignoring the will of the people. Over 96% of the state’s localities have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.
Northam’s move to close down gun range forced the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) and Gun Owners of America (GOA) to sue in state court to reopen the ranges.
The two organizations were very explicit in their lawsuit to explain that the groups were not suing the Governor for violating the Second Amendment, but for violating Article One, Section 13 of the Virginia Constitution.
Northam seems to be afraid of having challenges to his emergency orders heard in state court. Several churches filed suit in state court over the Governor’s order to shut down their services. These churches argued that Virginia was violating their First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Northam moved these cases from state court to federal court, where he would have a better chance of victory because of the liberal makeup of the court.
Foreseeing Northam making the same move against a lawsuit dealing with ranges, the gun groups only sued the Governor for violating the Virginia State Constitution.
The court case still referenced other Second Amendment cases from around the country as persuasive cases because a Virginia Governor has never tried to use emergency powers to shut down shooting ranges. The lawyers from the gun rights organizations did not cite these cases as a binding authority. By citing them as persuasive means that the courts could use them to help craft their ruling, but the judgments do not require the judge to use them. They are more of a guide than a requirement.
One day before a Virginia State court was due to hear the case to reopen gun ranges in the Commonwealth; the Governor moved the court case up the federal level where it would be heard by a Clinton appointed judge. Gun rights advocates believe that the Governor is terrified of state courts. By the afternoon, attorneys for the groups filed an emergency to remand, meaning the judge should send back the case to the state level.
“Northam is gaming the system and is clearly afraid of the suit being heard in a Virginia court under Virginia law,” VCDL President Philip Van Cleave told AmmoLand News.
The Virginia Solicitor General argued that this lawsuit is a Second Amendment case in disguise. The state claims since the law that the groups accuse Northam of violating states that the Governor cannot use a state of emergency to violate the Second Amendment or the Virginia Constitution that it must be heard in federal court since it includes language about the Second Amendment. The suit filed by the gun-rights groups does not include an accusation that the Governor was violating the right Second Amendment rights of Virginians.
The Solicitor General argued that if a Virginia Court would be allowed rule on what the Virginia Constitution means, then it would be binding on the federal level concerning the Second Amendment. The point was stated twice and left legal experts scratching their heads as to how the state came up with that line of reasoning.
If the federal court accepts the state’s argument, it would mean all state-level Second Amendment cases would be federal cases.
This decision would expand the powers of the federal courts. The state also argued that since Article One, Section 13 of the Virginia Constitution shares a similar language with the Second Amendment that federal courts should have jurisdiction over all cases involving the state’s right to bear arms provision. This interpretation would mean any state’s constitution that shares language with the US Constitution would fall under federal jurisdiction. This ruling would be a significant expansion of power for the federal courts.
Instead of ruling and letting today’s hearing go forth, the judge gave Virginia until 5 PM Wednesday to file a brief. Council for VCDL and GOA will have until 5 PM Thursday to file a counter brief.
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.