Come And Take It: Gun Range Defies COVID Shutdown Order

A northern Minnesota gun range is open for business, despite being warned by the state Attorney General that the range is violating Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 shutdown orders. Dead on Arms actually did shut down briefly back in the spring under the governor’s original shutdown order, which specifically referenced indoor shooting ranges, but Chad Walsh, who owns the range outside of Duluth, says the governor’s latest emergency declaration shouldn’t apply to his training facility.

“You need to figure out where you fit in here. You need to close down immediately. That’s what we were told,” said Walsh.

Walsh was sent a letter by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office on December 4th. The letter stated that he violated the state’s order, as his business classifies as a sports facility.

Walsh said his shooting range isn’t a sports facility, as shooting a gun can be deadly.

“There is a side to the firearms industry which is sporting, that would be sporting clays. We don’t offer that here. This is a place for people to come and get proficient with their firearm and train to learn how to use it,” said Walsh.

After hearing from the AG’s office, Walsh contacted an attorney of his own and fired off a response to the state. In the letter, Walsh’s states that the gun range takes the position that use of the range isn’t prohibited under Walz’s most recent executive order, but says that if the order is amended to specifically shut down indoor ranges, the company will comply.

I’d encourage Walsh to reach out to Second Amendment organizations like the Firearms Policy Coalition, Second Amendment Foundation, NRA, and GOA if Walz does amend his executive order to encompass indoor gun ranges. A federal judge in Massachusetts has already overturned the decision by Gov. Charlie Baker to shut down gun stores in the state, and the Supreme Court has recently opined that our constitutional rights don’t disappear in an emergency.

Walsh has a pretty good argument that a time of both increased unrest and record numbers of new gun owners, his range is absolutely essential to providing the basic training that every gun owner should have as well as the training that’s necessary to obtain a license to carry in Minnesota.

It’s quite possible that Walz will modify the current shutdown order this week, and could specifically add indoor ranges to the list of businesses effected. If Dead on Arms chooses to fight, they won’t be alone. According to the Star-Tribune newspaper, more than 150 businesses are preparing to defy the governor and his current shutdown order by re-opening tomorrow, with no plans to close again even if ordered to do so.

ReOpen Minnesota Coalition, which claims support from roughly 160 statewide businesses ranging from bars to fitness studios, plans to defy the governor by encouraging members to reopen Wednesday, the same day Walz is expected to extend or modify his executive order or let it expire. Their livelihoods — and their constitutional rights — are at stake, said Lisa Monet Zarza, a coalition member who owns Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville.

“The financial part of it sucks,” Zarza said, adding that she’s furloughed 45 employees at Alibi and another bar she owns. “But it’s more than just that. We donate catering, support youth sports, the police and the Rotary. It’s hurting the fabric of the community.”

The first COVID-19 vaccines are already being administered in Minnesota, and new cases are actually on the decline along with hospitalizations and deaths. It would be a huge mistake for Walz to try to further crack down on businesses by keeping them completely closed, both from a practical and a political standpoint. The civil disobedience on the part of small business owners will only grow in response to any heavy-handed attempts at enforcement, and the financial pain from the closures will linger long after the governor’s emergency order has expired.

We’ll see what happens later this week, but for now Dead on Arms remains open for business, with a concealed carry class scheduled to start at 9:30 Saturday morning. Here’s hoping the doors will be open this weekend, no matter what Minnesota’s governor announces on Wednesday.