Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order last month to temporarily close indoor gun ranges as non-essential — recreational and entertainment — businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
Gun-rights groups sued, contending that the governor doesn’t have the authority in the state constitution to declare a state of emergency to close indoor gun ranges.
Bearing Arms reported that a circuit court judge overturned part of Gov. Northam’s order pending litigation on the matter. An excerpt (emphasis added):
Judge F. Patrick Yeatts declared in an order on Monday that Northam’s actions are likely to have exceeded his constitutional authority, and declared that the portion of the governor’s executive order on essential businesses that deals with indoor ranges not be enforced while the litigation continues.
Yeatts noted in his decision that the Virginia state constitution declares that “the body of the people, trained to arms is the proper, natural safe defense of a free state.” Since that is the case, clearly the right to bear arms includes the right to train with them. Since gun ranges provide a place where that training can take place, they are protected under the right to keep and bear arms.
The legislature passed a law in 2012 that bars the governor from interfering with the people’s right to keep and bear arms, even in an emergency. Bearing Arms notes the irony: Ralph Northam was a state senator at the time who supported the law). Did he forget that he voted for the law, or did he forget about the law itself?
Just as closing gun shops interferes with law-abiding citizens’ right to acquire firearms legally for self-defense, closing gun ranges, indoor or outdoor, deprives them of the ability to legally train to use their firearms.