Gov. Ralph Northam announced during his Wednesday briefing that elective medical procedures, dentist offices, and veterinarians can resume operations in Virginia on Friday, May 1st, but other businesses declared by the governor to be “non-essential,” including indoor gun ranges, must remain closed until at least May 8th.
One indoor range in the state isn’t subject to Northam’s order, however. Safeside Lynchburg sued the governor over his executive order, and on Monday a circuit court judge in Lynchburg, Virginia granted a temporary injunction allowing the range to re-open, citing Virginia state law and the state constitution in his decision.
The gun range officially re-opened on Wednesday, and the company has released guidance for customers on the procedures that will be in place for the foreseeable future, including limited hours and capacity. Here are a few of the changes that the range is making in order to comply with CDC guidance on social distancing.
One 25yd bay will be open 12pm-8pm Mon-Sat in LYNCHBURG ONLY.
Only 1 customer per lane will be allowed, 9 max in range
All range sessions will be by reservation only (via website) for now.
All customers and staff in the range bay will be required to wear a face covering
Customers may not enter the facility if they have symptoms of, have tested positive for, are presumptive positive for, or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Rental eye/ear protection remains suspended. Customers may bring or buy these items
Rental guns will not be available for use at this time. We will assess/relax this after a little while
Waivers will need to be completed prior to arrival and/or on customer personal device
We will be installing plexiglass shields at the check-in desk
We will not be collecting/holding drivers licenses (scan through the plexi)
We will be using paper lane cards (throw away after use)
Social distancing stickers and tape lines will be placed on the floor. We reserve the right to ask you to leave if you cannot abide by the required rules.
The range also laid out its cleaning procedures, noting that as each customer leaves their lane, staff will use “hospital grade disinfectant to sanitize the bench, shelf, and walls,” as well as the touchscreens in each lane. Range safety officers will be wearing gloves that they will change every hour, along with regular hand washing.
Those seem like pretty thorough rules to me, and personally, I would feel comfortable visiting the range if I didn’t have a spouse with a compromised immune system at home. For low risk individuals, a trip to the range may involve some new procedures, but it sounds like it could be done without jeopardizing your health.
There’s no reason why other indoor ranges couldn’t operate under these same guidelines, except for the fact that King Ralph has decreed that the ranges are actually places of “indoor amusement,” instead of the training facilities that they are. In Monday’s ruling, Judge F. Patrick Yeatts noted that Virginia’s state constitution refers to the body of the people “trained to arms” as being the most effective way to secure the liberty of a state, but declared that Northam’s proclamation infringes on that right to train with the arms Virginians are entitled to keep and bear.
So far there’s been no word from Northam or Attorney General Mark Herring about a possible appeal of the judge’s ruling. Since the judge’s order applies only to SafeSide Lynchburg, the pair may decide that it’s better to take the loss and not risk a decision by the court of appeals or the Virginia Supreme Court that could allow every indoor range in the state to re-open their doors to customers.
That would probably be the wisest move the governor could make, but I’m hoping he does decide to appeal. Based on Virginia’s statutes, I don’t think his order as it applies to indoor ranges has a chance of holding up in court, and I’d love to see the state’s high court weigh in, especially since Northam repeatedly attempted to move the case from state to federal court.