Activists are celebrating Virginia Democratic governor Ralph Northam’s decision to lift restrictions on indoor gun ranges in what they argue is a direct response to a recent court victory.
Northam released an executive order on Friday that will allow indoor shooting ranges to operate starting May 15 so long as they follow strict guidelines. Ranges that reopen must operate at half capacity, require face coverings for employees, and adopt enhanced disinfecting for commonly used surfaces and rental equipment. Ranges that flout the rules could face misdemeanor charges. The announcement came after a state court ruled that Northam lacked the authority to shutter an indoor gun range in Lynchburg. Second Amendment activists said the decision set the stage for potentially unravelling the Democrat’s emergency power. Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League which filed suit against the range shutdowns, said the case demonstrated Northam’s flawed handling of the crisis, including his classification of the facilities as “entertainment” venues. “We consider both the reclassification of indoor shooting ranges to no longer be ‘entertainment,’ and their reopening this coming Friday to be a victory,” he told the Washington Free Beacon. “They should have been classified as ‘essential’ from the beginning.” Judge F. Patrick Yeatts of the 24th Judicial Circuit of Virginia ruled Northam’s shutdown of indoor ranges violated state gun-rights protections in April. The ruling only applied to the named plaintiff, Lynchburg Range & Training, but activists planned to issue further legal challenges to Northam’s order. [full article]