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Gun Show Organizers Cancel Over Virginia COVID Restrictions

Guns in display
Thousands were expected to attend a now cancelled gun show in Fairfax this weekend. Event organizers say the cancellation will harm many retailers who plan around these events. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

A Northern Virginia judge blocked a massive indoor gun show from operating at full capacity this weekend. Organizers have now canceled the event.  

The Nation’s Gun Show was expected to draw thousands of people to the Dulles Expo Center for three days. But Gov. Ralph Northam’s most recent COVID-19 emergency restrictions forced the organizer, Showmasters Gun Shows, to limit attendance to 250 people. The event typically draws upwards of 23,000 attendees. 

Showmasters sued the governor and asked Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Brett Kassabian to allow the show to move forward at normal capacity. 

They said the restrictions and subsequent cancellation will have a massive economic impact. 

“Exhibitors have accumulated and built up stock with large investments for months preparing to come to this show,” the complaint said. “It takes months to prepare for this show. The loss of this show represents months of investment for all involved.”

During a court hearing Thursday morning, Showmasters argued The Nation's Gun Show should be categorized as a “brick and mortar retail business” rather than an “entertainment business” which is subject to capacity limits. 

“A typical Walmart has at least twice the number of people per square foot per day as The Nation’s Gun Show,” said Showmasters’ attorney David Browne.

Judge Kassabian didn’t agree. 

“Sellers come in and show their wares and leave. Any suggestion that it is the type of permanency that one would find in a brick and mortar establishment, like Walmart, is a stretch that the court is unwilling to take on these facts,” Kassabian said. 

Attorney General Mark Herring applauded the judge’s ruling, calling the show a potential super-spreader event. 

“I’m 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,” Herring said.