A gun-show promoter on Thursday morning lost a lawsuit filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court seeking an exemption to state COVID-19 gathering restrictions for a large gun show this weekend at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly.
The "Nation's Gun Show," held by Showmasters Inc., was set to open tomorrow and continue through Sunday at the expo center. In its lawsuit, Showmasters argued it should be considered a brick and mortar business, for which there are no capacity limits enforced. The show is instead being considered an entertainment and amusement business, which limits crowd size to 25 people. In year's past the gun show has attracted up to 23,000 attendees, court documents state.
In his ruling, Judge Brett A. Kassabian noted that the 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."
Kassabian found the gun show is not in the public interest, but the private interest of the show's organizers.
"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," he said.
In a Facebook post, Showmasters said the show is canceled.
"We are very sorry for the incredible financial burden and terrible inconvenience this is inflicting on all involved," organizers said.
Organizers had already received a go-ahead from the Fairfax County Health Department, which said the show could operate as a brick and mortar, and therefore not curb attendance. But state Attorney General Mark Herring stepped in to close "all similar venues in the state."
"We fought back and went to court at great expense and lost. We respectfully disagree with the judges opinion," organizers said.
The show's organizers say they stand to lose between $600-700,000 in gross sales. They also argued that the gun show is the largest event held at the Dulles Expo Center and was handled successfully under less restrictive Phase 3 COVID-19 restrictions this August with more than 12,500 attending.
“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 in a statement after the court hearing. “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."