After a lengthy and convoluted process, Virginia Republicans finally have a candidate for this year’s race for governor. Glenn Youngkin, the former CEO of the investment firm The Carlyle Group, won the drive-thru convention held across the state this past weekend, emerging victorious from a crowded field that featured another businessman-turned politician (Pete Snyder), a self-proclaimed “Trump in heels” (Sen. Amanda Chase), and longtime legislator Del. Kirk Cox.
As my friend and colleague Ed Morrisey notes at Hot Air, however, there are still some lingering questions about where Glenn Youngkin stands on the Second Amendment.
So … can Youngkin win in Virginia? Being a self-funder certainly doesn’t hurt, but it may not help in a cycle where the lack of other campaigns essentially nationalizes this election. The first task will be to unite the GOP, which might take Youngkin some time after a bruising primary process. He talked tough on “election integrity” and pandered to the “stop the steal” holdouts, but balked a bit on gun rights:
Youngkin has called for a tightening of Virginia’s voting laws, which were expanded when Democrats took control of the state legislature in 2020. His proposals include photo IDs for all ballots, an application to prove citizenship before casting mail-in ballots and two witness signatures for mail-in ballots.
Along with other GOP candidates, Youngkin railed against school closures amid the pandemic and vowed to defend law enforcement. He got blowback from some conservatives for not answering questionnaires sent by the National Rifle Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League — a move some activists argued would precipitate a pivot on the issue in the general election.
You can hear Youngkin himself in this tweet below, where he describes himself as a Second Amendment stalwart.
I’m a gun owner, I’m a lifetime member of the NRA, & I understand what it means to protect our right to keep & bear arms. As governor, I will defend that right with every legal capacity that I have. I so fundamentally disagree with President Biden — These Amendments are absolute! pic.twitter.com/zVoMLN7QBZ
— Glenn Youngkin (@GlennYoungkin) April 21, 2021
If you notice, Youngkin didn’t get into any specific policy points, instead pivoting from his declaration that “these amendments are absolute” to talking about the need to win in Virginia, where Republicans have been shut out of the governor’s mansion since Bob McDonnell left office in 2014.
Youngkin’s campaign website is also silent on the Second Amendment (and, to be fair, many other issues), which makes it difficult to determine where Youngkin stands on several issues important to gun owners in the commonwealth.
I have no doubt that Youngkin is more Second Amendment-friendly than any of the Democrats running for their party’s gubernatorial nomination. After all, even Terry McAuliffe, the “moderate” front-runner, has declared he’ll ban so-called assault weapons and “high capacity” magazines if he’s elected, in addition to “vowing to limit people under 21 from purchasing handguns; explore waiting periods and permits for gun purchases; ban people from openly carrying firearms in certain public spaces” and making it a crime to transfer a firearm to anyone without first putting them through a background check.
Still, as a voter and Second Amendment activist, I’d like to know more about where Youngkin comes down on issues like Constitutional Carry, Virginia’s Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, and the potential repeal of the gun control restrictions enacted by Democrats in the state in 2020 and 2021.
I’d also like to know if Youngkin is prepared to take the fight over the Second Amendment to Democrats. Is he going to call out the party for proclaiming themselves the champions of “criminal justice reform” while also demanding the invention of new, non-violent, possessory firearm offenses out of our right to keep and bear arms? Will he challenge Democrats like Terry McAuliffe who want to restore the voting rights of felons while leaving them prohibited from exercising their Second Amendment rights?
As Ed Morrissey points out, in order for Youngkin to win in Virginia, he’s going to have to “sell his campaign on the ground by tying his agenda more to smart government than small government, at least in NOVA, and hope that McAuliffe’s big-business and government ties don’t eclipse that message.” In my opinion, that messaging needs to include outreach to suburban and swing voters on why the Democrats’ gun control ideas aren’t smart at all. Yes, Youngkin needs to defend our Second Amendment rights, but he also needs to be able to explain to folks who aren’t big 2A supporters why the Democrats’ desire to ban our way to safety is wrong-headed and will lead to more crime, more incarceration, and less public safety.
That means Youngkin also needs to be able to explain to those same voters how his plan will improve public safety without trying to impose new restrictions on legal gun owners. I would love to see Youngkin hammer Democrats over their refusal to help cities introduce anti-violence programs like Project Ceasefire and Project Exit, which have a proven track record in reducing both violent crime and overall arrests while helping young men and teens leave criminal gangs and establish themselves as responsible citizens.
I’ve extended an invite to Glenn Youngkin to join me on an upcoming Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to discuss these issues, and I hope that we’ll be able to flesh out these topics with him in the days ahead. I truly believe that Democrats can be put on the defensive when it comes to their gun banning ways, and I hope that Youngkin is prepared to take the fight to the Left on both our right to keep and bear arms as well as the right way to combat the rise in violent crime that’s taken place in Virginia since the Democrats took over the legislature in 2019.