A sign welcoming drivers to Virginia
A sign welcoming drivers to Virginia / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Virginia’s Governor Race Turns Towards Guns as Election Approaches [Member Exlcusive]

Virginians will head to the polls in two weeks to vote for a new state government, including the governor.

The impact on gun owners in the state could be significant. Democrats took control of the state government in 2020 and passed a collection of gun laws. They required background checks on private sales and allowed local governments to restrict gun carry in certain places. But, they stopped short of instituting the “assault weapons” ban candidate Terry McAuliffe (D.) and other gun-control activists advocated for.

Democrats will likely make another push if McAuliffe beats Republican Glenn Youngkin, and they hold both chambers of the legislature.

But, up to this point, that hasn’t been a focus of the campaign. McAuliffe has focused chiefly on Youngkin’s coziness with former President Donald Trump and opposition to vaccine mandates. Youngkin has concentrated on school policy and McAuliffe’s insistence that parents should not hold sway over what schools teach.

Even though the 2020 gun bills sparked a state-wide grassroots movement that culminated in one of the largest protests in Richmond’s history, guns have remained in the background… until now.

This week we unearthed a 2019 video of McAuliffe deriding gun shows and talking about how Attorney General Mark Herring (D.) provided him leverage to pass a 2016 gun bill by breaking gun-carry reciprocity agreements despite knowing they weren’t dangerous. After that, we found out who is funding a shadowy liberal-run PAC running pro-gun ads against Youngkin to suppress gun voter turnout. It was Dominion Energy.

Youngkin has tried to tiptoe around the gun issue for most of the campaign. He’s refused to fill out the questionnaires the NRA and Virginia Citizens Defense League use to endorse candidates. So, he hasn’t gotten an endorsement.

It appears he believes a strategy of hoping the policy contrast between him and McAuliffe is enough to motivate gun owners while avoiding turning off left-leaning voters in Northern Virginia by being too closely associated with the gun-rights groups. It’s pretty similar to his Trump strategy.

Dominion seems to think that leaves him vulnerable with gun owners. So, it is funding ads to hit him over it.

Interestingly, though, Youngkin’s campaign has been more talkative about the issue recently. They haven’t sought out the gun group’s endorsements, but they have commented on several Reload stories about the issue. They’ve even officially come out in opposition to the “assault weapons” ban that McAuliffe supports.

Perhaps they realize they need to shore up their position to try and motivate gun owners to vote. After all, if they didn’t want anyone to notice where Youngkin stands on guns, they could have simply given no comment instead.

Dominion funding underhanded tactics to depress gun owner turnout while Youngkin tries to boost it with just weeks left until election day shows how close everyone now expects this race to be. McAuliffe has enjoyed only a slight lead to this point, and there are indications the race may be tightening as the end approaches. Every point counts in that case, and how gun owners turnout and vote may well have a significant impact on who wins.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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