U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Showmasters, who run the Nations Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia; John Crump; and Sonny's Guns and Transfers, who frequently utilize the show, have filed a lawsuit against Governor Northam and M. Norman Oliver as the State Health Commissioner, in order to prevent their shutting down one of the largest gun shows in the nation next weekend, 20, 21 and 22 November 2020.
The restrictions were issued on Friday, 13 November, becoming effective on 16 November. The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, 17 November. The Nations Gun Show is scheduled for Friday, 20 November.
Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia is no friend of gun owners or the right to keep and bear arms. Governor Northam has imposed numerous Constitutionally questionable restraints on people in Virginia as executive orders, bypassing the legislature.
A gun show is as peaceable an assembly of persons imaginable. People at gun shows routinely discuss the problems of overstepping of government power. Governor Northam's actions will be discussed and condemned at the Nations Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia. The motivation of the Governor is sure to be discussed.
Many of the emergency restrictions in the executive orders on commerce, movement, and assembly are vague and subject to interpretation. Such is the case with the latest set of restrictions.
One of the points of clarity requested in the lawsuit, is how the Nations Gun Show is classified. Months of planning, hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditures by the organizers, exhibitors, attendees, and millions of dollars in economic activity all hang on the wording of vague classifications of emergency orders.
The orders changed by executive fiat at the whim of the Governor. Is the Nations Gun Show considered a “Brick and Mortar” establishment? Or is it an “entertainment venue”? The exercise of Constitutional rights and tens of millions of dollars of economic activity hangs on such a relatively frivolous differentiation. From the Nations Gun Show:
The show takes months to put together and it is too late a notice for most of these businesses to recoup their losses. It will cause irreparable damage to all involved from the building, auxiliary businesses, the exhibitors, the promoter, the hotel, convenience stores, restaurants, and the strip mall. Exhibitors have significant investments in inventory, as do restaurants and convenience stores, much of which cannot be recouped. We will be releasing a GoFundMe and another type of crowdfunding for legal defense expenses.
The Nations Gun Show organizers are willing to follow all social distancing, masking, and other health requirements. They did so a few months ago.
The show was safely administered in August 2020 with Covid-19 restrictions in place. From the lawsuit:
19. The Nation’s Gun Show has been administered successfully and safely, even during COVID-19. The Dulles Expo Center and The Nation’s Gun Show maintain and enforce a written set of policies and procedures (See Exhibit B) that not only mirror the sanitization and distancing requirements provided by the state but also go further than the state requires. For example, Showmasters previously has utilized a germicidal UV-C lighting system and an industrial HEPA air purification system in order to combat the spread of disease throughout the show. Showmasters also has in the past ordered tens of thousands of face masks to have on hand for event staff to hand out to attendees.
20. During prior occurrences of The Nation’s Gun Show, Showmasters and Dulles Expo Center staff effectively limited the number of attendees on the floor at any given time and enforced sanitization, distancing, and masking requirements among participants. As a result, neither state nor county health departments has reported any spread of COVID-19 as a result of The Nation’s Gun Show.
The court will need to act quickly if it is to prevent permanent damage to those involved in the gun show. Much time and treasure has already been spent. To deny the opportunity for this gun show to occur will create significant permanent harm.
In addition to the economic harm, cancellation of the show will directly violate Constitutional rights enshrined in the Virginia Bill of Rights. For example, the right to freedom of speech and assembly. From Virginia Bill of Rights:
Section 12. Freedom of speech and of the press; right peaceably to assemble, and to petition.
That the freedoms of speech and of the press are among the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained except by despotic governments; that any citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; that the General Assembly shall not pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, nor the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances.
Despotic shutting down of the Nations Gun Show, which has previously operated under Covid-19 guidelines, shows a willingness to violate several provisions of the Virginia Bill of Rights.
It seems likely the court will prevent such a catastrophic event by clarifying the lack of authority to unilaterally shut down such events by the Governor, even under the emergency power authority.
The emergency power authority in Virginia is not absolute. It is limited by what power was given by the Virginia legislature.
If the court acts quickly, much harm can be prevented before this weekend.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.