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Circuit Court Judge Grants Temporary Injunction Opening Indoor Shooting Range in Lynchburg

On Monday, April 27, 2020, Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge F. Patrick Yeatts issued an order granting a temporary injunction that allowed SafeSide Lynchburg to reopen its indoor shooting range. The owners of SafeSide Lynchburg, joined by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Gun Owners of America, and the Association of Virginia Gun Ranges filed suit against Governor Northam challenging the inclusion of indoor shooting ranges as businesses ordered closed by Executive Order 53. Judge Yeatts enjoined and prohibited the Commonwealth from  enforcing the prohibition on public access to SafeSide Lynchburg’s range as set forth in paragraph 4 of Executive Order 53, provided that SafeSide Lynchburg operates in a manner consistent with Paragraph 7 (follows social distancing and sanitizing guidance from federal and state authorities). Judge Yeatts’ order only concerns SafeSide Lynchburg’s indoor range. The Plaintiffs are considering options to expand the injunction to indoor ranges statewide.

In a written opinion, Judge Yeatts held that although “Virginia Code § 44-146.17 allows the Governor to declare a state of emergency under when the State Health Commissioner issues an ‘order of isolation concerning a communicable disease of public health threat’ as defined in Virginia Code § 44-146.16…Virginia Code § 44-146.15(3) constrains the Governor from ‘limiting or prohibit[ing] the rights of the people to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of Virginia or the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United states, including the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, sale or transfer of firearms.” In addressing the Commonwealth’s argument, Judge Yeatts noted that “ The Governor appears to argue that, when he declares a state of emergency, he can ignore any law that limits his power, even laws designed to limit his power during a state of emergency. Such an interpretation would defeat the reason for making § 44-146.15(3) and render the statue meaningless.” Judge Yeatts held that the ability to obtain firearms training is sufficiently close to core Second Amendment concerns that a restriction on the ability to obtain such training could impose substantial burdens on core Second Amendment rights.

A copy of Judge Yeatts’ order and ruling can be found here.

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