Del. Dan Helmer, who represents parts of Prince William County, has introduced a bill to ban indoor gun ranges in buildings where more than 50 people work, a move that would likely affect the indoor gun range at National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax.
"Yes, this plan would affect the NRA, we also think it will save lives,” Helmer, D-40th, said about the bill in an email Tuesday.
Helmer, a West Point grad and U.S. Army veteran elected in 2019, said his bill, HB567, is aimed at keeping Virginia workplaces safe in the wake of numerous workplace mass shootings throughout the country, including a mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building in May 2019 that killed 12.
“This bill would make sure that we don't have people bringing large quantities of firearms and ammunition into office buildings,” said Helmer aide Noah Bardash. “This bill would likely impact the NRA's indoor range.”
NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said the organization opposes the measure because it would eliminate jobs and “destroy small businesses in Virginia without reducing crime.”
“In addition to generating about $18 million each year in revenues, the state’s ranges are the epicenter for vital safety training. This is where our law enforcement community comes to train alongside families and individuals seeking skills for home and self-defense,” Mortensen said.
The bill would not prohibit indoor shooting ranges in buildings owned or leased by the state or federal government or at ranges where at least 90% of the users are law-enforcement officers.
The bill would also require indoor shooting ranges to keep a log of each user's name, phone number, address and the law-enforcement agency where users are employed. It would also require all indoor gun range users to present a government-issued photo-identification card upon entry.
Fauquier County Board of Supervisors Chairman Chris Butler, R-Lee, said he opposes the bill but doesn’t think it would impact any gun ranges in Fauquier County.
“I would think having safe ranges that will educate novice shooters and offer a place for experienced shooters to go and remain proficient with their firearms is what we want in Virginia. I see no ‘safety measure’ in this proposal,” Butler said.
Helmer, who defeated former Republican delegate and caucus chair Tim Hugo last November, campaigned heavily on tightening Virginia gun laws in the run-up to the election.
“I heard in so many conversations this past year that gun violence prevention is the top priority of my constituents,” Helmer said.
Helmer filed two additional gun bills this week – HB568 and HB569 – to prohibit the open carry of firearms in vehicles and to require those who hold concealed carry permits from other states to meet Virginia's concealed-carry permit standards to carry their concealed weapon in the commonwealth.
"As someone who carried weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm determined to deliver commonsense measures for our community & commonwealth," Helmer said in a press release.
Virginia Democrats vowed to enact gun reforms after the Virginia Beach mass shooting. Now that they control the House of Delegates, state Senate and the governor’s mansion, it’s likely that many proposed reforms will reach the governor’s desk later this year.
In the past, Virginia Republicans have stymied most gun reform or gun control measures introduced in the General Assembly. Until 2019, Republicans had majority control of the House of Delegates and state Senate for nearly a decade.
In 2017, 1,028 Virginians died as a result of gun violence, including 674 by suicide.
A Dec. 16 poll from Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center showed that Virginia voters strongly support further gun control restrictions. According to the poll, 86% of Virginia voters support requiring background checks on all gun sales, and 73% were in favor of passing a “red flag” law.
Only a slight majority – 54% –were supportive of banning assault-style weapons.
Since the Nov. 5 election, gun rights activists have flooded local board of supervisors and city council meetings across the commonwealth to ask local officials to protest any new gun reforms enacted by the General Assembly.
Many localities have since declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries," a term that Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said has “no legal effect whatsoever.”
Prince William and Fauquier county boards passed resolutions declaring their counties “constitutional counties” in December. The resolutions state that county officials will uphold the Virginia and U.S. Constitutions but make no promises to not enforce new gun laws. Fauquier County’s gun resolution also expressed support for a handful of new gun laws now before the General Assembly.
Prince William County’s newly elected board, which was sworn in Monday, voted Tuesday, Jan. 7, to delay a vote on a gun violence prevention resolution that would express the board’s support for a handful of proposed new state gun laws. The board decided to delay its vote until Jan. 21 after more than 100 people, mostly opponents, spoke against it.
A large gun-rights protest is expected on Monday, Jan. 20, at the Virginia Capitol that will reportedly draw hundreds of armed supporters from both in and outside Virginia.
Reach Daniel Berti at email@example.com