Double-Standard: Virginia Eliminates Online Carry Courses While Promoting Distancing for Everything Else

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posted on March 3, 2021
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Virginia has provided a stark example of how gun control is aimed at harassing law-abiding gun owners rather than improving public safety.

As part of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly’s sweeping attack on gun rights in 2020, anti-gun lawmakers enacted legislation that made it more difficult for gun owners to obtain the required training for a Right-to-Carry permit.

Prior to January 1, applicants had been able to prove their competence with a handgun by providing proof of “Completing any firearms training or safety course or class, including an electronic, video, or online course, conducted by a state-certified or National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor.” HB 264, signed into law by Gov. Northam on March 23, removed the electronic, video or online course options and required a qualifying firearm training or safety course to take place in-person.

Such legislation is always aimed at inconveniencing gun owners rather than improving public safety. However, this legislation is particularly galling given the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic and the government’s response to it. Just as the state government is encouraging Virginians to social distance, including distance learning, it has cut off a vital distance learning tool for gun owners.

Northam signed HB 264 just ​11 days after declaring a state of emergency in response to COVID-19. At the same time, Northam took measures to protect the state’s workforce by banning state employee travel. Further, the governor directed the state Secretary of Administration “to implement a phased transition to teleworking for state employees” and directed state agencies “to limit in-person meetings and non-essential, work-related gatherings.”

According to Northam, the work of the state government is capable of being done remotely, but remote learning for firearms owners is unacceptable.

In order to promote distancing in response to COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has even waived certain training requirements for Class B commercial driver’s licenses.

To their credit, the Virginia Senate attempted to temporarily resolve the online carry injustice in August. The Senate unanimously passed SB 5041, which would have delayed the in-person training requirement until July 1, 2021. The House of Delegates failed to pass the measure.

Gun owners across the country should take note of the flagrant double-standard at work in Virginia. The state’s eager embrace of distanced work and learning for all but firearms training reveals that HB 264 was never about the inadequacy of remote firearms education, but rather just a convenient means to attack gun owners.

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