- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge on Thursday shot down a lawsuit filed by hosts of one of the nation’s biggest gun shows, who claimed that cancelling this weekend’s event due to coronavirus restrictions violated the Second Amendment.

Judge Brett Kassabian ruled that it is “not in the public interest” to exempt The Nation’s Gun Show from virus restrictions.

The three-day event scheduled to start Friday was expected to bring up to 25,000 attendees to the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, where it has been held a few times a year.

“I find that it is in the private interest of the plaintiffs,” said Judge Kassabian, according to a press release from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office. “To allow thousands to roam unchecked during the middle of the most serious health crisis this county has suffered in the past one hundred years is not in the public interest.”

The judge disagreed with the gun show hosts’ argument that rules to limit their attendees are an overreach of authority and a violation of the Second Amendment. He also criticized a recent show in August that drew nearly 13,000 people, which the hosts said was “safely and successfully executed even while being severely limited by” pandemic restrictions.

“[J]ust judging on what occurred in August, tens of thousands are allowed to gather over the course of three days and then leave, the risk of an unprecedented superspreader event infecting not only those persons but third parties that those persons come into contact with is substantial,” Judge Kassabian said.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver were named as the defendants in the 57-page complaint filed by state resident John Crump and Showmasters Inc., which is conducting business as Showmasters Guns Shows and Sonny’s Guns and Transfers.

The three plaintiffs claimed that state officials do not “have the authority to order the complete cancellation of one of the single largest economic events in the Commonwealth, at which thousands of persons gather together to engage in millions of dollars of lawful commerce, and activity expressly protected by multiple provisions of the Constitution.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the show should be classified as a “brick and mortar retail business,” which has no capacity limit under current emergency restrictions.

State health officials, however, have said that any event at the expo center is considered “entertainment and amusement business,” which currently is restricted to 30% of the lowest capacity limit or 250 people.

The hosts claimed that exhibitors and event staff would “far exceed” the 250 person capacity “even before including attendees” and called the emergency restrictions “the very definition of tyranny” due to the lack of clarity and vagueness.

The gun show presumably would have been particularly profitable as the recent “demand for firearms, ammunition, and related products and services has skyrocketed, fueled by intersecting scares over COVID-19 and interruptions in government-related services including policing, fears of demonstrations, rioting and social unrest purportedly in response to various police shootings, and a general sense of apprehension about the November 2020 presidential election and the future for gun rights in this country.”

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers from William Olson P.C. and Spiro & Browne PLC, can appeal the judge’s decision.

Mr. Herring filed a reply brief Wednesday about the potential “superspreader” event and applauded the ruling in a press release Thursday.

“I’m pleased that the judge agreed that putting thousands of Virginians at risk for contracting COVID just so people could buy and sell guns at a gun show was not worth it and could have led to disastrous consequences,” Mr. Herring said.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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