FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Fairfax County judge on Thursday blocked an effort by a Virginia gun-show organizer who sought to hold a three-day event this weekend near Dulles International Airport without a capacity limit, ruling that granting an exemption from the state’s coronavirus restrictions would not be in the public’s interest.
A lawsuit was filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court earlier this week by Showmasters, Inc., the organizer of “The Nation’s Gun Show,” arguing that the tighter restrictions that were reintroduced by Gov. Ralph Northam and that went into effect Monday would require the cancellation of the event as it would limit the attendance to 250 people at a time.
The plaintiffs, which also included a gun store called Sonny’s Guns & Transfers and John Crump, the Virginia state director for Gun Owners of America, Inc., claimed in the suit that the event should not have to adhere to an attendance limit as it should fall under the category of a “Brick and Mortar Retail Business,” which currently does not have a capacity limit.
The economic impact of limiting the event’s capacity was one of the main points the plaintiffs addressed in the suit, claiming that Sonny’s Guns & Transfers estimates it would lose out on $60,000-$70,000 in gross sales if the event is canceled.
“During COVID-19 times, attendance has been reduced due to capacity restraints (approximately 12,500 in August of 2020) but, in the past, as many as 23,000 persons have attended The Nation’s Gun Show. At every gun show, many millions of dollars changes hands during the three-day period of the show. Although the Nation’s Gun Show has participants both large and small, it is common for vendors to display hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise for sale.”
Judge Brett A. Kassabian ruled against the organizers of the event in court Thursday, citing the coronavirus pandemic when deciding that an exemption would benefit the plaintiffs but not the general public.
“Finally, the injunction is not in the public interest,” Judge Kassabian concluded in court. “I find that it is in the private interest of the plaintiffs. 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.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring applauded the judge’s ruling in a statement calling the gun show a potential “superspreader event.”
“This enormous gun show could have very quickly become a superspreader event and this win will help keep hundreds if not thousands of Virginians safe and healthy,” Herring said. “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.”
Showmasters, Inc., confirmed that the gun show has been canceled on its Facebook page.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.