RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia Democrat is looking to block the National Rifle Association from operating an indoor gun range at its headquarters. It's an aggressive move against the country's best known and most politically potent gun-rights organization that highlights some Democrats' antipathy toward the group.
The proposal is part of a larger fight on guns that's set to dominate this year's legislative session.
Freshman Del. Dan Helmer is pushing a bill that would ban indoor shooting ranges at offices where there are more than 50 employees. That would include a shooting range at the NRA headquarters, which is located in northern Virginia.
Helmer said wasn't he targeting the NRA per se, but said he was not aware of any other specific shooting ranges in the state that would be affected by his bill.
“There are millions of people who work in office buildings in the Commonwealth of Virginia," he said. “It doesn't make sense for us to be establishing businesses in those buildings that have people bringing lots of firearms and ammunition."
The NRA said such legislation would not just hurt its range, but those belonging to larger sporting goods and gun stores as well. The group said those ranges are vital for gun safety training.
“This is a gun-control bill that will eliminate jobs and destroy small businesses in Virginia,” said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen.
The NRA says on its website that the indoor shooting range at its headquarters is one of the country's “premier family friendly indoor shooting facilities.” The wheelchair-accessible range has 15 shooting booths and is open to the general public.
Democrats have a full majority at the state house for the first time in a generation and have promised significant new gun restrictions, including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a red flag law that would allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others.
Republicans and gun-rights groups have pledged stiff resistance. Gun owners are descending on local government offices to demand that officials establish sanctuaries for gun rights. More than 100 counties, cities and towns have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries and vowed to oppose any new “unconstitutional restrictions” on guns.
It's unclear how far Helmer's legislation will advance this year, but its introduction stands as a symbol of the broad gap between Democrats and the NRA.
Virginia Democrats of an older generation used to actively seek the NRA's endorsement. Current U.S. Sen M ark Warner launched an intense campaign aimed at sportsmen and persuaded the NRA not to endorse his Republican opponent when he successfully ran for governor in 2001.