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Judge Rules Indoor Shooting Range Can Reopen

Signs hanging from a half-roof
Indoor gun ranges were ordered closed under an executive order that covered recreational, entertainment and other non-essential businesses, but a ruling passed down this week during a virtual session means one may reopen. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

*VPM intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza reported this story

A Lynchburg circuit court ruled Monday that Governor Ralph Northam cannot order the closure of an indoor shooting range during the pandemic.

During a virtual court hearing last week, an attorney for SafeSide Tactical in Lynchburg made the case that shooting ranges are essential businesses because they help ensure responsible gun use. 

“Just because of COVID-19, the governor didn't have the authority to close indoor ranges and essentially stop part of a constitutionally protected activity, which is the right to bear arms,” said Mitch Tyler, the owner of SafeSide Tactical.

The governor ordered recreational, entertainment and other non-essential businesses to close last month, which included indoor shooting ranges. It’s part one of the governor’s efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Outdoor shooting ranges remained in operation.

Tyler says he looks forward to being back in business. He says the shooting range will adhere to social distancing and sanitation guidelines -- putting a limit in place of one person per lane, setting up floor-to-ceiling dividers and requiring staff to wear protective equipment.

“We’re excited to get some of our staff back to work. We laid off more than half of the staff because of the forced range closure,” Tyler said.

During a news briefingMonday afternoon, Northam said his goal is to slow the spread of coronavirus and that his executive order did not single out gun businesses in particular.

“Businesses where patrons would be at risk to be confined and where there would perhaps be more than ten people, we made the decision to close those,” Northam said.

The governor’s order has been extended to May 8.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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