Virginia Dem Admits NRA Range A Target Of His "Gun Safety" Bill
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Virginia Delegate Dan Helmer, a northern Virginia Democrat elected last November on a “gun safety” platform, has made it one of his first priorities to shut down one of the region’s most active indoor ranges; the NRA Range in Fairfax, Virginia. Helmer confirmed to the Prince William Times that if HB 567 becomes law, the range would be forced to close.

“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.”

Of course it would impact the NRA’s range, but there’s no way it would save lives. It’s likely the bill was written to specifically impact the NRA’s range, though other large gun stores and ranges with more than 50 employees would be impacted as well, at least with the current language.

If the goal is to “make sure we don’t have people bringing large quantities of firearms and ammunition into office buildings,” then why allow for ranges to operate in buildings with fewer than 50 employees? More importantly, what on earth is this supposed to solve? The only result of this bill would be the closure of gun ranges and a decrease in gun safety, as gun owners have to search for another range where they can train.

Frankly, I’m glad to see Del. Helmer introduce his bill. It perfectly demonstrates the mindset of the state’s anti-gun politicians; far more interested in punishing legal gun owners and “the gun lobby” than they are in promoting real public safety policies. Virginians may have thought they were voting for “commonsense gun safety” measures that would respect the Second Amendment last November (that’s certainly what they were told, anyway), but what lawmakers like Helmer are delivering are a steady and sustained attack on the right to keep and bear arms and those Virginians who exercise that right.

As for Helmer’s assertion that closing one of the busiest ranges in northern Virginia would save lives, I really wish the reporter for the Prince William Times would have engaged in some pushback or at least some follow up questions. If closing one range would save lives, would closing all indoor ranges save even more lives? Why not introduce legislation requiring all offices with more than 50 people to be “gun-free zones”? We’re told all the time that a “No Guns Allowed” sign will stop bad guys from coming into that office space with evil in their hearts and murder on their minds, so why ban indoor ranges in buildings with more than 50 employees?

I appreciate Dan Helmer’s service to this nation in the U.S. Army, but he’s doing a disservice to his office and the Constitution with this ridiculous and petty piece of legislation.

It’s worth noting that Helmer’s proposal is not one that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has endorsed in the past, though I suspect if it gets to his desk he’d likely sign it. We’ll have a better idea of where this legislation stands and if it has any real chance of passage by this time next week, as bills start moving through committees.

In the meantime, if you’re a Virginia gun owner you should include your concerns about HB 567 in your contacts with your delegates and state senators. For those of you who are now represented by Democrats, it’s even more important to try to get your representatives to state their position to proposals like this.

Another piece of legislation worth asking your lawmakers about is HB 1409, authored by Republican Del. Nick Rush from southwestern Virginia. It’s a simple bill. In fact it’s only one sentence long.

Neither the General Assembly, nor the Governor, his cabinet, or any executive branch agency shall consider the Second Amendment sanctuary status of any locality in the Commonwealth in making budgeting or fiscal decisions regarding the appropriation or allocation of any state funds to such locality.

There’s a lot of concern by some county officials that the Governor and anti-gun legislators will try to punish those Second Amendment sanctuaries by withholding grants or government funds that are vitally important in rural areas. Any attempt to penalize Virginians for exercising their First Amendment rights would be a gross abuse of power, so in a perfect world this bill would pass with unanimous support. I have a feeling, though, that Del. Rush’s bill won’t even make it out of committee.