In the state’s 2019 elections, many Democrats in Virginia ran on gun control, and organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety credited anti-gun policies after Democrats took control of both chambers of the legislature.
In 2021, though, when voters in the state will elect a governor and other statewide officeholders in addition to elections for the House of Delegates, those same Democrats look to be running away from the issue.
WRIC-TV in Richmond reports that Del. Mark Levine, who was the chief sponsor of Gov. Ralph Northam’s attempted ban on modern sporting rifles; “high capacity” ammunition magazines; and legally owned suppressors (which was defeated in the state Senate earlier this year after passing the House of Delegates) says he has no plans to re-introduce the measure in the session which is slated to begin in early January.
Now, Levine says he’s deferring action on the legislation, blaming a shortened and largely virtual session, as well as a new cap on the number of bills that can be introduced by each delegate.
“Most of the session will be devoted to things that are less controversial. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up fighting for this cause,” Levine told 8News in an interview on Tuesday. “The goal is to stop making it really easy to commit mass murder.”
Levine, who just announced his bid for Lieutenant Governor, said he doesn’t expect any of his Democratic colleagues to introduce the bill in 2021 either, though it can’t be ruled out.
Back in April, as he signed a half-dozen new gun control bills into law, Northam vowed that his failed gun ban would return in 2021, telling gun control activists “I will not stop and that piece of legislation will be introduced again to ban assault weapons [from] our streets.”
Now the governor is singing a different tune.
In an interview on Monday, 8News asked Gov. Northam if waiting to revisit the issue is the right decision or if Democrats should be acting with more urgency to fulfill one of their top campaign promises.
“It was a campaign promise that a lot of us ran on. I think it was a large reason why the House switched from Republican control to Democratic control,” Northam said. “That one bill on assault weapons didn’t move forward but six other pieces of legislation did and I think because of that Virginia is a safer state.”
“But I’ll leave that up to the discretion of the legislature and whatever they do I’ll be supportive of,” Northam continued.
Northam said he’s not personally pushing the General Assembly to address the measure in 2021.
First off, Northam’s wrong about Virginia being a safer state. For years Virginia has been one of the safest states in the country, without any of Northam’s gun control laws in effect, but thanks to the COVID restrictions, court closures, and early release of inmates, as well as a pullback on proactive policing in many departments, 2020 will be one of the worst years in recent memory in terms of violent crime.
Still, there’s no doubt that Northam and Democrats are gun-shy about pushing their sweeping attack on the Second Amendment in an election year, despite Northam’s claims that gun control was a winning issue in 2019. If that were the case, Democrats would be doubling down on the issue instead of backing away from it. They know that their election gains are likely to be short-lived if they continue their push for gun control, so they’ll try to keep as quiet as possible on the issue until after next November’s elections are over.
Virginia gun owners aren’t going to let them get away with it. Every delegate and senator who voted for Northam’s failed gun ban in 2020 can expect that to be an issue in the 2021 elections, and frankly, running away from the ban now just makes Democrats look even more cynical and craven. These gun control bills were supposed to be all about improving public safety, but Democrats are backing off of them after the crime rate has gone up? That makes no sense, at least from a public safety standpoint.
From a political point of view, however, it makes perfect sense. After a year of record-high gun sales in the state, the rise of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, and the lack of a blue wave in federal elections in Virginia in 2020, Democrats know that gun control isn’t the winning issue they thought it would be. So, they’ll try to lay low in terms of talking up their gun ban plans this year in hopes of maintaining control of state government.
If Democrats retake the governorship and keep control of the state House, however, we all know that the gun ban will be back in 2022. Gun owners in Virginia know what’s at stake in these elections, even if Northam and his anti-gun allies in the legislature will do all they can to change the subject between now and November.
We’ll have more on this story this afternoon when Del. Kirk Cox, who’s also running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Virginia, joins me on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, so be sure to check out our conversation later today.