From AG Mark Herring’s office:
A lawsuit has been filed in Fairfax Circuit Court by “a gun-show promoter, a firearms dealer, and a prospective gun-show attendee” seeking an exemption to allow for a massive potentially 25,000-person indoor gun show to be held at the Dulles Expo Center this weekend. With COVID cases rising throughout Virginia and around the country, a gun show of this size would most certainly become a superspreader event and could infect hundreds if not thousands of Virginians with COVID.
AG Herring filed a reply brief this morning, detailing the detrimental consequences a massive event like this could have and saying that the “[p]laintiffs’ filings betray a callous disregard for the public-health consequences”.
Because this superspreader event is scheduled for this weekend, this case is moving incredibly quickly, and a hearing has been scheduled for 10 AM tomorrow morning in front of Judge Brett A. Kassabian.
In his reply, AG Herring says that so far, Virginia’s COVID safety measures have “been working, by one estimate halving the transmission rate from what it would have been without them.” But he adds that, “[t]his Fall has brought a dangerous surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth…[and] Virginia public health authorities are currently reporting an average of approximately 1,500 new COVID-19 cases per day.”
AG Herring notes that “[p]laintiffs urge this Court to weigh the ‘concrete harms’ they will suffer if they are unable to host, participate in, and attend a gun show more heavily than the ‘impossible-to-estimate risk of transmission of the flu-like’ illness known as COVID-19…Moreover, plaintiffs claim that the ‘serious health consequences’ of COVID-19 are ‘unknown’…and that ‘whatever the risk of transmission may be, it is…borne primarily by persons who choose to accept that risk.’” AG Herring goes on to say that the plaintiffs’ “statements are brazenly misinformed…the ongoing pandemic has infected more than 200,000 Virginians since March and has killed nearly 4,000 – more than four times the number of automobile fatalities that occurred in all of 2019.”
AG Herring highlights the community risks that are associated with a massive gun show like this one saying, “[i]n the midst of this crisis, plaintiffs ask this Court to…allow tens of thousands of people to converge on an area smaller than a city block, where they will congregate indoors for an extended period of time.” Adding that, contrary to what the plaintiffs are arguing, “the risk of that activity will not be borne ‘primarily’ by those who choose to attend. Rather, those who contract COVID-19 at the event will bring it home to their communities where they will unknowingly spread it in the days before they become symptomatic (if ever), passing it to elderly people, those with pre-existing conditions, pregnant women and others who are at greater risk for severe health problems or death.”
AG Herring has been incredibly successful in defending Virginia’s COVID safety measures in court, including upholding the proven-effective mask mandate, and he intends to do the same with this reckless lawsuit that could put the lives of thousands of Virginians at risk by allowing a massive superspreader event to be held indoors.
Other key passages from AG Herring’s reply brief are below:
- [COVID-19] is deadly and spreads with devastating ease. Well-intentioned people can unknowingly infect others. There is no vaccine or cure. Millions have been infected in the United States alone, and hundreds of thousands have already died. [Page 1]
- Petitioner asks this Court to second-guess the Governor’s choices and decide – without a staff of experts or even the normal course of litigation – when, how, and under what conditions Virginia should permit certain activities to occur. The law does not require such extraordinary (and potentially deadly) judicial guesswork. [Page 2]
- In the last 14 days, all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, and infections have spiked by 100 percent or more in at least 10 States. As of November 12, 2020, one in every 378 Americans had tested positive for COVID-19. [Page 6-7]
- The growing number of cases and hospitalizations means that health care systems in some regions could face a strain as early as next month. [Page 7-8]
- Plaintiffs concede that they do not know how many people are likely to attend the gun show this year, but anticipate that participation could ‘easily surpass’ prior years…when 23,000 people attended. [Page 9]
- The public interest in preventing this kind of spread is not speculative or hypothetical, nor is it outweighed by any harms plaintiffs face from the inability to attend a gun show. [Page 32]
I will make sure to keep you updated as things progress in this case.