Ever since the mass shooting in a Virginia Beach municipal building, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has been on an anti-gun tirade. Then again, it’s about the only thing that has successfully deflected attention away from his blackface scandal. Still, he’s been beating the anti-gun drum pretty hard and heavy.
Well, he was.
COVID-19 has kind of sucked all the air out of the room from a news standpoint. There’s remarkably little political news going on that doesn’t revolve around the disease.
Yet we’ve also seen many lawmakers use this as a pretext for trying to shut down the firearm industry, though with varying degrees of success. Northam, of course, has been part of this movement.
Now, a Virginia gun-rights group is asking him to rethink his restrictions on gun ranges.
Virginia gun owners are calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to remove indoor gun ranges from the list of non-essential businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, this comes as background checks for firearm purchases saw double digit growth from February to March. The Second Amendment advocacy group Virginia Citizens Defense League said that indoor ranges aren’t places of entertainment, rather places where people can practice lifesaving skills.
The group has rallied its supporters to urge Northam to reconsider the closing of indoor ranges, which are part of two recent executive orders requiring Virginians to stay at home and non-essential businesses to close until June 10.
Under Northam’s orders, gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited. Indoor gun ranges, along with many other businesses deemed recreational and entertainment facilities, have been required to close. That includes racetracks and historic horse racing facilities, bowling alleys, arcades and movie theaters. Beauty salons, spas, massage parlors and other non-essential establishments that can’t keep people more than six feet apart must close.
Essential businesses such as grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, pet stores, electronic and hardware retailers, and banks can remain open.
“The governor’s view of ranges is that they are for entertainment, or that has been what he has classified them as,” VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said. “Ranges are where people get to practice lifesaving skills, and there are so many new gun owners now that have realized that their safety is in their own hands.”
Van Cleave, of course, is completely accurate here.
We have tons of new gun owners who, we hope, are looking up how to be safe with their firearms and studying up on the basic rules, but using a firearm safely goes beyond the Four Rules. You also need to be accurate with your weapon. A round that misses its target is a round that’s free to hit some other “target” instead. That’s not good.
Yet legions of new gun owners have had no opportunity to learn accuracy because the ranges are shut down.
Yesterday, we reported on how one range is staying open and keeping people from contracting the disease. This could easily be implemented all over the country, but especially in Virginia.
No one wants the COVID-19 crisis to go on one minute longer than it has to, but that also doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to mitigate the risk so that we don’t create still more problems down the road. Northam has an opportunity to do the right thing here.
The question is, will he?