Gun show organizers sue in effort to circumvent Virginia pandemic restrictions

Under new restrictions set this week, maximum capacity for the Nation’s Gun Show would be set at 250 people at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly.

Organizers of a major gun show planned for Fairfax County, Virginia, this weekend are suing in an effort to circumvent tougher coronavirus restrictions imposed amid a recent surge in cases.

Under new restrictions this week, maximum capacity for the Nation’s Gun Show would be set at 250 people at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. Organizers claim those limitations would violate the rights of gun owners and cause the vendor to lose $70,000 in revenue.

In a court hearing scheduled for Thursday morning in Fairfax County Circuit Court, a gun-show promoter, a firearms dealer and a prospective gun-show attendee plan to ask for an injunction against the restrictions, arguing the rules should be based on physical distancing and not attendance numbers.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed a reply brief to the suit, spelling out the consequences of any large-scale event and said a gun show of this size “would most certainly become a superspreader event and could infect hundreds if not thousands of Virginians with COVID.”

The indoor show could draw as many as 25,000 people.

Herring said in his brief that the suit by the organizers disregard the public-health consequences of the coronavirus and said statement by the organizers are “brazenly misinformed.”

“The ongoing pandemic has infected more than 200,000 Virginians since March and has killed nearly 4,000 — more than four times the number of automobile fatalities that occurred in all of 2019,” Herring said, cautioning against events that may cause the virus to spread more widely.

Tighter restrictions that went into effect this week include limiting in-person gatherings to 25 people, an expanded face mask mandate, halting late-night alcohol sales at restaurants and increased enforcement of pandemic rules for essential businesses, such as grocery stores.

“While the Commonwealth’s case count per capita and positivity rate remain comparatively low, all five health regions are experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases, positive tests and hospitalizations,” Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said in a statement.

Northam urged vigilance and caution as coronavirus cases continue to surge, including through limiting private gatherings during the upcoming holiday season.

“Consider the risks — not just to yourself, but to your family and to your loved ones,” Northam said. “This year, staying home is an act of love, too. Protecting the people you care about, protecting your neighbors and community, even protecting strangers, is an act of love.”

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