How voters want to regulate firearms may determine who comes out on top of Virginia’s state elections next month.
That’s one takeaway from a pair of polls released over the past few days. A Washington Post/George Mason University poll found that 83 percent of Virginians listed gun policy as important to their vote, making it the fourth highest rated issue. Meanwhile, a Christopher Newport University (CNU) poll found guns were tied for the fourth most important issue, with nine percent of voters saying it was their top issue.
The outcome of the elections could have a substantial impact on gun policy in the state. While Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin is not up for re-election, every member of the House of Delegates and Senate will face voters. Republicans currently hold a four-seat majority in the House, and Democrats have a two-seat majority in the Senate.
If Democrats can retain or expand their representation, it will likely result in few changes to the state’s gun laws. That would keep in place the universal background check, “red flag,” one-gun-purchase-a-month, and local gun-free zone laws Democrats passed in 2020. However, if Republicans capture a trifecta, they could repeal some or all of those restrictions.
With gun policy polling as a key issue in the race, it’s not clear which party might benefit. Registered voters told The Post they favor Republicans on gun policy by five points. 47 percent said they trusted Republicans to handle the issue, while 42 percent preferred Democrats.
However, the CNU poll found Democrats in the state are significantly more concerned about the issue. They listed gun policy as their second most important issue behind abortion, while Republicans had it as their seventh most important. Independents had gun policy tied with immigration as their fourth most important issue in the election.
The gun groups are paying close attention to the off-year election in Virginia.
In September, Everytown for Gun Safety announced it planned to spend at least $1.5 million in the state’s elections backing candidates who support stricter gun-control laws. It released two ads at that time, including one that highlighted abortion alongside gun control. Earlier this month, the group launched another ad as part of a $200,000 campaign.
The National Rifle Association has not announced ad buys in the state. However, it has begun a door-knocking campaign throughout the state in support of pro-gun candidates. Similarly, the Virginia Citizens Defense League has already started encouraging its members to take advantage of early voting.