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Judge Stands Against Lockdown Measures.

The Associated Press reported on April 27 that a Virginia state judge issued a temporary injunction that allowed a gun range to remain open despite Governor Ralph Northam's executive order requiring its closure. In his opinion, Lynchburg Circuit Judge F. Patrick Yeatts stated that the governor had overstepped his authority under the state's emergency power legislation. Yeatts wrote that "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 powers in a state of emergency." Yeatts further wrote that "during an emergency, the governor is given great deference, but [the statute] specifically limits his authority in relation to the right to keep and bear arms.... The purpose of the right is to have a population trained with firearms in order to defend the Commonwealth.... Proper training and practice at a range ... is fundamental to the right to keep and bear arms.... The Court understands the Governor's desire to protect the citizens of our great commonwealth.... But in taking steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, he took a step beyond what is allowed."

This court decision was a result of a lawsuit by SafeSide gun range in Lynchburg, Virginia, that challenged Governor Northam's executive order that deemed gun ranges as nonessential. SafeSide gun range was also joined in its lawsuit by the Gun Owners of America, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, and the Association of Virginia Gun Ranges.

Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring argued on the governor's behalf that the measure that closed gun ranges was necessary "to protect public safety." Herring was disappointed by the judge's ruling and said that he still supported the governor's actions. "Governor Northam's efforts to save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19 are necessary and proving to be effective, but unfortunately, the gun lobby believes the ability to shoot a gun indoors during this pandemic is worth risking further spread of the virus and making Virginia communities and families less safe," Herring wrote in a prepared statement.

Governor Northam also held a press conference, where he said he was exploring all of his legal options to get the injunction overturned, and he reiterated that his goal is still to "promote and protect the health and safety of Virginians.... No particular business has been singled out." Yeatts' order only applied to the SafeSide Lynchburg facility, but Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said his organization is still consulting with counsel about how to get similar legal protections for other gun ranges.

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Author:Krey, Patrick
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1U5VA
Date:Jun 8, 2020
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