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Judge sides with Northam, Herring, backing capacity limit on Northern Virginia gun show

Virginia covid-19
(© Ingo Menhard –

A state judge ruled Thursday that a Northern Virginia gun show would have to abide by venue capacity limits set by a Gov. Ralph Northam public health executive order to be able to go on as scheduled.

Judge Brett A. Kassabian rejected the argument made by lawyers for the Nation’s Gun Show, which had been expected to draw as many as 12,000 people to the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly over the three-day, Nov. 20-22, weekend, that the show should be treated like a brick-and-mortar business, “like the Walmart is right across the parking lot from us and other Walmarts all over the state,” according to a statement from Annette Elliott, the president of Showmasters Inc., the event organizer.

“We just want to be able to operate on the same business model that Walmart is,” Elliott said, in a statement posted to the event’s website. “We are arguing that we be classified as business retail under brick and mortar, and not entertainment and amusement. They are taking a broad brush across the state and labeling all event centers this way.”

In his ruling, Kassabian highlighted that our country is “in the throes of a national pandemic we have not seen in over 100 years” and that “a person can unwittingly spread a virus to others with devastating results based on its asymptomatic nature.”

“The injunction is not in the public interest. 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,” Kassabian wrote in his ruling.

Attorney General Mark Herring, whose office defended the Commonwealth in the suit, said the 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.”

“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. If we have learned one thing over the past few months, it’s that we must all work together and abide by the COVID safety measures to keep ourselves, our families, and our loved ones healthy,” Herring said.

Showmasters, in an update posted to the event website Thursday afternoon, reported that the show has been canceled in light of the judge’s ruling.

“We fought back and went to court at great expense and lost. We respectfully disagree with the judge’s opinion,” the statement read. “We will follow up with more later. We are very sorry for the incredible financial burden and terrible inconvenience this is inflicting on all involved.”

Story by Chris Graham