Gun Show — Virginia Uses Coronavirus Emergency Power to Shut Down

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A man inspects a handgun at the NRA annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., April 28, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

When a federal court in North Carolina issued a restraining order stopping Governor Roy Cooper from stripping citizens of the right to assembly for religious worship, Judge James C. Dever III noted that, “There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution of the United States or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

You wouldn’t know it. Governors are operating like authoritarians. As Judge Samuel Alito noted recently, we are now experiencing “previously unimaginable” attacks on freedom. If a pandemic with a high survival rate empowers states to ignore individual rights and laws, what is the purpose of the Constitution?

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio shut down public schools this week, without any legislative input, or debate, or even any credible scientific reason. Parents, most of whom have shown far more discretion and wisdom during the coronavirus pandemic than a mayor who is making decisions not based on science but on the whims of special-interest groups that he happens to favor, got shafted again.

And the diktats of the authoritarians are never neutrally upheld. Hasidic Jews practicing their faith in Brooklyn will be scapegoated and threatened by Cuomo — the fences of the outdoor playgrounds in the neighborhoods welded shut — while a million New Yorkers will be free to have a giant party in Times Square to celebrate the defeat of Donald Trump.

This kind of treatment goes on everywhere. Here is Mark Herring, the attorney general of Virginia, tweeting today:

Note the celebratory tone in which the attorney general — allegedly the state’s top law-enforcement officer, not a babysitter or even a health official — talks about stopping Virginia gun owners from peacefully assembling and practicing their Second Amendment rights.

Herring found a judge who let him shut down The Nation’s Gun Show, which his office called “a massive potentially 25,000-person indoor gun show” that “would most certainly become a superspreader event and could infect hundreds if not thousands of Virginians with COVID.” Knowing that it would be financially untenable for them to continue, Herring demanded the event be open to only 250 people when it has a capacity for 25,000.

Herring’s contentions are all risible. There is no evidence that the 50,000-square-foot facility that was to house the event — one that requires masks and social distancing and operates at 50 percent capacity — will become a superspreader event. If it were so, Herring would be fighting to shut down every Walmart and Target in Virginia.

If Herring were concerned about the health of citizens, rather than his partisan crusade — one that taxpayers fund — he would apologize for the inconvenience, not gloat. But we all know there is zero chance we’ll ever see an AG tweet out a blaring siren with the words, “successfully BLOCKED a massive Black Lives Matter protest.”

And, in case the Constitution weren’t clear enough, Virginia law says that a state emergency does not empower the government to interfere with “sale, or transfer of firearms.” It’s a shame that the gun show acquiesced, because there is no pandemic exception to the Constitution.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun






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