A Virginia state Democrat has introduced a bill that seeks to prohibit indoor shooting ranges that aren’t controlled by the commonwealth.
Virginia Democratic Del. Dan Helmer filed House Bill 567 on Thursday, which seeks to prohibit indoor shooting ranges in the state not owned by the commonwealth or the federal government, and would force those privately owned to maintain the personal information of customers.
Washingtonexaminer.com reports: Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam previously announced that an assault weapons ban that may be passed in the state could include a grandfather clause of previously owned assault weapons that could be possessed but must be registered with the state, thereby creating a registry.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry, was alarmed at Helmer’s bill, telling the Washington Examiner the legislation would be “an absolute threat” to small businesses across the commonwealth.
The foundation’s Director Of Public Affairs Mark Oliva called the bill a “backdoor registry of every firearms owner and every firearms user” in the state.
“The aim of gun control has always been to control not just the guns, but those who own them. The bills presented in this General Assembly have sought that at least twice. This legislation to ban privately owned indoor ranges seeks to collect and store personal information on law-abiding gun owners and the firearms they own and use,” Oliva said.
He also pointed to Northam’s statements that he wants registration of firearms that meet what Oliva termed “his expansive definition of a so-called assault firearm.”
“That is potentially hundred of thousands, possibly millions, of Virginians who would be put in registration lists and monitored by their government for the simple act of exercising their God-given rights,” he said.
According to Oliva, the bill would be the first of its kind to be implemented by a state, if passed.
“This is unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like this. I believe that people like Michael Bloomberg and states like California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, where you see very strict gun control laws — Illinois among them — I think that they’re all looking to see what is going to be happening here in Virginia to see what they could possibly do in their own states,” Oliva told the Washington Examiner. “I think that Virginia has become the bellwether for gun control and the gun rights debate.”
Helmer, a native of New Jersey until he was 17 in 1999, later joined the Army and was stationed in Virginia after completing an overseas assignment in Korea. He won his delegate seat in November against eight-term Republican Tim Hugo. He ran on a gun control platform.
The Washington Examiner reached out to Helmer’s office on Thursday and asked about the information that ranges would be mandated to collect from customers and later maintain.
“This legislation is a way to keep our community safe from gun violence,” Helmer’s chief of staff Noah Bardash said. Bardash did not specify how Helmer wants the information to be used or if any co-sponsors had signed on to the bill.
Helmer defended his bill on Twitter on Thursday: “Shooting at the range is fun. But they don’t belong in populated work places & few are located there. Look no further than @NRA HQs in Fairfax, where a worker was wounded in a negligent discharge, to see that office buildings and ranges don’t mix.”
He later tweeted, “This bill would impact few ranges in Virginia. Ranges in #HD40 are responsibly located and will stay open for business. It would impact millions who work in offices in the Commonwealth, ensuring that their buildings don’t suddenly become more dangerous work places.”
The legislation would apply to businesses with more than 50 employees or where less than 90% of its customers are law enforcement. The National Rifle Association, which has more than 50 employees and a headquarters in Fairfax with a firing range, would be among the ranges Helmer’s bill targets.
“Everyone says this was an attack on the NRA’s range, and surely it is,” Oliva said. “But this is also an attack on small businesses.”
Oliva pointed to two ranges, a 68-employee range in Manassas and one in Virginia Beach with 60 employees, as examples of small businesses that could be hurt by the measure.
NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said the move would hurt small businesses, not reduce crime.
“In addition to generating about $18 million each year in revenues, the state’s ranges are the epicenter for vital safety training,” she said in a statement. “This is where our law enforcement community comes to train alongside families and individuals seeking skills for home and self-defense.”