News & Politics

Gun Show Loses Fight Against Virginia Covid Regulations

A judge said a Chantilly exposition risked becoming "an unprecedented superspreader event"

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The Nation’s Gun Show scheduled to take place at the Dulles Expo Center this weekend must comply with the commonwealth of Virginia’s covid restrictions, a judge in Fairfax ruled Thursday.

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,” Judge Brett A. Kassabian ruled. “At worst, if the plaintiff is allowed to host this planned event, at an event where, just judging on what occurred in August, tens of thousands are allowed to gather over the course of three days and then leave, the risk of an unprecedented superspreader event infecting not only those persons but third parties that those persons come into contact with is substantial.”

In a statement, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he was “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.”

The show, a huge annual exposition that expects 900 tables of vendors and exhibitors, filed suit against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and health commissioner M. Norman Oliver that contended limiting attendance to 250 people was outside the governor’s authority. It also claimed that the gun show met the definition of a “Brick and Mortal Retail Business” and was thus exempt from the regulations.

In a reply, Herring’s office noted that the regulations applied to the venue, not the show itself, and that organizers had said they expected tens of thousands of attendees. The expo center, it noted, has already hosted or will host “the 27th Annual Northern Virginia Christmas Market, the International Gem and Jewelry Show, the Super Pet Expo, the Capital Art and Crafts Festival, and the DC Big Flea and Antiques Market” this fall and winter.

Attorneys for the gun show have not yet responded to a request for comment.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.