The all-out war on gun rights of Virginians continues apace as the new legislative session opens in Richmond. Dan Helmer (D), a newly elected delegate from Northern Virginia, pre-filed HB 567, which seems exclusively designed to punish the National Rifle Association. Fashioned as a shooting-range regulation bill, it curiously seems to apply to a single facility in the entire state. If passed, the proposed law will simply outlaw the NRA range in Fairfax County because of the number of employees hired there. It is a shameless attack using the power of the state to punish and silence a political advocacy organization.
Helmer introduced the bill on January 6 as chief sponsor and sole supporter, so far, to be voted upon during the next legislative session. The delegate is one of the newly elected Democrats who now have a majority in the Virginia legislature for the first time since 1994. His bill outlaws private gun ranges if more than 50 people work at the location. It’s about as simple as that.
The act proposes to transfer more power over shooting ranges to the state, and:
Prohibits the operation of an indoor shooting range, defined in the bill, in any building not owned or leased by the Commonwealth or federal government unless (i) fewer than 50 employees work in the building or
ii) (a) at least 90 percent of the users of the indoor shooting range are law-enforcement officers or federal law-enforcement officers, (b) the indoor shooting range maintains a log of each user’s name, phone number, address, and the law-enforcement agency where such user is employed, and (c) the indoor shooting range verifies each user’s identity and address by requiring all users to present a government-issued photo-identification card.
Will Delegate Helmer try to invent some public safety reasons for why ranges with large staff numbers are deleterious to the good health and public order of Virginians? No Virginia gun range seems to come close to that number of employees, other than the NRA facility. Gun ranges are not typically heavily staffed – though if you were a firearm safety proponent, wouldn’t you want to see more supervising personnel at a range rather than fewer?
Helmer has so far refused Liberty Nation’s request for an answer to the following questions regarding the proposed law:
What safety or other benefits might Virginians gain by its passage?
Was the legislation crafted for the specific purpose of punishing the National Rifle Association?
Are you aware of any gun ranges in Virginia that would be covered by the measure besides the NRA range in Fairfax?
Targeting the NRA
The National Rifle Association blasted the bill in a statement to LN. Spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said, “This is where our law enforcement community comes to train alongside families and individuals seeking skills for home and self-defense.” She continued, “The state’s ranges are the epi-center for vital safety training.” What she didn’t say and what I can report firsthand is that the NRA range is perhaps the finest publicly available indoor firearms shooting facility in the world. Why would a state legislator want to outlaw it? It must be those magic initials: NRA.
The National Rifle Association has its headquarters in Fairfax, VA. Along with its executive offices, a firearms museum, and other functions, it hosts the shooting range. If the bill passes and the NRA continues to operate the range, the organization will be liable for up to a $100,000 fine, plus $5,000 per day thereafter. Meanwhile, a small range down the road with one owner-operator, no safety classes, and an old barn will be perfectly legal.
Dan Helmer made no secret of his contempt for the gun rights of Virginians during his campaign for office. He did, however, position himself as an honorable man – a West Point grad and Rhodes Scholar who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. More’s the pity that his education and service left him comfortable using his newly won political office to harm a political and civil rights organization. Maybe his re-election campaign literature will feature his willingness to use the state’s legislative process to settle grudges.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.