Government threatens to fine premier firearms-training facility if it reopens

Lawyers representing the famed Front Sight Firearms Training Institute in Nevada are challenging a county threat to fine the company if it reopens as planned.

The Rutherford Institute has joined with Leslie Mark Stovall of Stovall & Associates in a letter to Nye County officials on behalf Front Sight.

They warn local officials that using the coronavirus to limit Front Sight’s Second Amendment rights would be an abuse of government authority.

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“As the courts have recognized, the constitutional right to possess firearms for protection wouldn’t mean much without the training and practice that makes it effective,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. “While the government is struggling to formulate an appropriate response to COVID-19, it cannot use this pandemic as a justification for curtailing fundamental rights. The Constitution still applies.”

Front Sight, Rutherford said, is “one of the world’s premier gun training facilities, with nearly a million citizens completing courses taught by seasoned military and law enforcement professionals on the safe and effective use of firearms.”

Located 45 mintues outside of Las Vegas, it draws people from across the nation.

The facility shut down in March 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Nevada Gov. Steve Sislolak.

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But last month it announced it would reopen, prompting county officials to threaten the operation with citations from the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The state bureau already has fined other companies some $230,000 for violating the governor’s restrictions.

Rutherford, arguing the training facility is considered “essential infrastructure,” contends it is exempt from the governor’s emergency restrictions because state law forbids the use of emergency powers to prohibit activities at the core of the constitutional right to bear arms, including training in the safe use of firearms.

The letter said “individuals who oppose the constitutional right to bear arms are now exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic as a means to suppress the outstanding firearms training programs provided by Front Sight.”

It explained that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s advice states “essential” operations include “workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors and shooting ranges.”

The statement shows that “the declaration of emergency directives issued by Nevada Gov. Sisolak do not apply to training activities and facilities of Front Sight,” the letter said.

Further, the state legislature already has imposed limits on the governor.

“The Nevada legislature expressly limited the governor’s authority to impair the right to bear arms during an ’emergency’ when it adopted NRS 414.155.”

The measure states the governor’s authority during an emergency “must not be construed to allow … the imposition of additional restrictions to the lawful possession, transfer, sale, carrying, storage, display or use of: a. firearms; b. ammunition; or c. components of firearms or ammunition.”

“Firearms training,” the letter continued, “is protected by the Second Amendment. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held, ‘that the core individual right of armed defense – as recognized in Heller and incorporated against the states in McDonald – includes a corresponding right to acquire and maintain proficiency in firearm use through target practice at a range.”