The Nez Perce County Fairgrounds were hopping last weekend as the Christmas Bonanza Gun Show got underway in Lewiston, Idaho. Hundreds of patrons were in attendance hoping to stock up on scarce ammunition and firearms, while dozens of vendors were hoping to bring in some cash this holiday season. At least one of those vendors would have been much better off staying home, however, since it turns out he had an active case of the coronavirus.
The individual was pulled over by police following the first day of the event which was on November 21st.
As soon as soon the officer saw that vendor, they called for an ambulance.
An email was sent to Lewiston City Officials. It reads:
“It has come to our attention that someone in attendance at an event, which took place at the Nez Perce County Fair Pavilion over the weekend, tested positive for COVID-19. This person was a vendor and attended the event even though they showed signs of illness.”
About 1,400 people took part in the two-day event, and the show organizers say that COVID-19 protocols were in place, including 12-foot wide aisles, sanitizing stations, and a requirement that those attending a show wear a mask.
While that’s good news, it’s still incredibly disheartening to learn that the vendor was visibly ill, to the point that police called for an ambulance when they saw him. If you’re showing visible symptoms, just stay home.
We were supposed to have a gun show in northern Virginia this past weekend as well, but the promoter of the Nation’s Gun Show ended up canceling the event after a judge ruled that a 250-person size limit applied to the show wasn’t a violation of state law. At the time, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring praised the ruling in a tweet, opining that “putting hundreds or even thousands of Virginians at risk for the sole purpose of selling guns is just not worth it.”
Does the fact that a gun show vendor in Idaho tested positive for the coronavirus mean that Herring was right? I don’t think so. I still disagree with Herring (and the judge who upheld the limitations on the crowd size) for a couple of reasons.
First, the Nation’s Gun Show also had planned for social distancing requirements, mask mandates, and other mitigation strategies to reduce the risk for attendees. Even beyond the steps that the show’s promoter had taken to protect the public, I still believe that state law precluded any limitations on the gun show.
Back in 2012, when Attorney General Mark Herring and Gov. Ralph Northam were serving in the state legislature, they both voted in favor of a bill that explicitly restricted the powers of government officials to try to prevent or limit the exercise of Second Amendment rights in an emergency. Here’s the relevant text of the statute:
Nothing in this chapter is to be construed to empower the Governor, any political subdivision, or any other governmental authority to in any way limit or prohibit the rights of the people to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of Virginia or the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, including the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, sale, or transfer of firearms except to the extent necessary to ensure public safety in any place or facility designated or used by the Governor, any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, or any other governmental entity as an emergency shelter or for the purpose of sheltering persons;
By limiting the gun show to a capacity of 250 people, the government was arguably limiting the rights of the people to buy, sell, or transfer firearms. However, the judge in the case disagreed and the show’s promoter decided not to appeal the decision, so the ruling stands.
We should take our Second Amendment rights seriously, but that doesn’t mean that we have to ignore the threat of the coronavirus. As a believer in personal responsibility over government mandates, I think that the vendor in Idaho who decided to take part in the gun show despite visible symptoms of the virus made a big mistake, and one that will allow nanny-staters like Mark Herring to point their fingers and say “See, this is why gun shows are a bad idea.”
Let’s use our common sense. If you feel sick, don’t put yourself in front of thousands of people. If you’re at a higher risk of serious illness because of age or underlying health conditions, stay away from large crowds. If you feel fine, go and enjoy your life while taking a few simple steps to reduce your risk of infection. It’s not that hard to do, and it definitely beats the alternative of trying to enforce draconian and unconstitutional mandates.