We’re a little more than a month away from Election Day in Virginia (although early voting has already begun), and the race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin is neck-and-neck according to polling in the state. In fact, as we detail on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, Democrats are getting nervous enough about the outcome that they’re rolling out some dirty tricks in the hopes of depressing the turnout among the state’s gun owners.
The Daily Caller Foundation was first to report on the Democratic PAC that’s running ads on Facebook targeting Glenn Youngkin by portraying the Republican as squishy when it comes to the Second Amendment, but local media in Virginia have also picked up on the story.
Facebook Page Accountability Virginia began running ads on Sept. 21 criticizing Youngkin, the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia, over his stance on the Second Amendment. The ad campaign is funded by Accountability Virginia PAC, a political action committee (PAC) registered to a Washington, D.C.-based consultant firm that works to elect Democratic candidates.
The ads claim Youngkin is untrustworthy as a candidate because he is not endorsed by the NRA, also saying Youngkin is not vocal enough about his position on gun rights legislation. Accountability Virginia PAC spent $6,726 on the ads, receiving a total of roughly 250,000 impressions, according to the campaign’s Facebook Ad Library data.
“While the NRA backs Donald Trump, they REFUSED to endorse Glenn Youngkin,” one ad reads, claiming “we can’t trust Glenn Youngkin on guns,” while another urges voters to “tell him to tell us the truth about where he stands!”
Another ad cites Youngkin’s allegedly tight-lipped stance on the Second Amendment as a reason why he is “just another politician we can’t trust.”
The most popular ad, which said that Youngkin was the only Republican not endorsed by the NRA, was seen between 125,000 and 150,000 times, according to Facebook Ad Library data.
It’s true that the NRA hasn’t endorsed Youngkin in the race, because Youngkin didn’t fill out the group’s candidate questionnaire. Youngkin also didn’t return the candidate survey from the Virginia Citizens Defense League, and his campaign has said that they’re not singling out the 2A groups, but rather are sticking to a policy of not answering any surveys from outside groups.
That strategy may be aiding the Democrats who are trying to convince gun owners to stay home rather than cast a vote, but given that McAuliffe’s campaign has been trying to portray Youngkin as a puppet of Donald Trump, it’s obvious that they would have done the same with the NRA’s endorsement of Youngkin had one been given. And while the anti-Youngkin ads have generated hundreds of thousands of impressions on Facebook, I’m not convinced that they’re going to have much of an impact on gun owners themselves. After all, McAuliffe is running on the idea of banning modern sporting rifles and “large capacity” magazines, so even though Youngkin hasn’t made the Second Amendment a focus of his campaign there are still stark differences between the two candidates.
I still believe, however, that Youngkin is playing it a little too safe on Second Amendment issues. I haven’t heard him rip McAuliffe for wanting to impose his gun and magazine ban, and while Younkin has repeatedly pointed out the rise in violent crime that’s taken place with Democrats like McAuliffe and Ralph Northam as governor, he hasn’t linked that increase in crime to the Democrats’ gun control efforts. If I were advising the Youngkin campaign, I’d be highlighting this news story from Norfolk, Virginia.
Since 2017, Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone has gathered data on crime. He calls it a deep dive into where guns originate, how they get to the streets, who’s buying them, and in the end, how many guns found at crime scenes are responsible for other incidents.
Boone recently sat down with WAVY to share what he has learned and to get the word out on handguns potentially being illegally purchased and showing up at crime scenes.
… One particular statistic stands out when it comes to guns in Norfolk.
“We know in this city, there’s about 15 or 20 handguns that are doing most of our shootings,” Boone said.
The chief finds that statistic stunning, but knows it’s true because of the analysis Norfolk performs on shell casings left behind at crime scenes.
“What we would do is examine all the casings that match,“ said Sgt. Tim Breslin, who forensically examines thousands of shell casings that go into a national database.
“You can see how the marking is on the side of the casing … and how they are consistent with other similar casings,” Breslin said.
Norfolk reports that this year alone, 10 guns were connected to 47 different incidents.
In the end, Boone says guns on the streets of Norfolk can only be remedied through what he calls a holistic approach.
“It is changing hearts and minds through creating opportunities at the end of the day,” Boone said.
Now, I disagree with how Boone frames the issue, because it’s not the guns themselves that are doing the shootings. In each and every pull of the trigger there’s a human being holding the gun. But what this statistic shows is that attempts to ban our way to safety by criminalizing the right to keep and bear arms is not only an affront to our Second Amendment rights, it’s a dead end from a public policy perspective. Yet this is exactly what Terry McAuliffe wants to do with his gun ban plans.
What we should be doing is focusing on those most violent offenders; the ones who are sharing and swapping these guns with their buddies. How many people have access to the 15-20 guns that are used in most shootings in Norfolk? 200? 300? It makes a helluva lot more sense to go after those criminal networks than to create new, non-violent, possessory crimes out of the right to keep and bear arms.
Even folks who aren’t Second Amendment activists can understand why, if we’re trying to make the state a safer place, we should be focused on the small number of criminals instead of the much larger pool of responsible gun owners. Terry McAuliffe’s embrace of an anti-gun (and anti-gun owner) agenda is a weakness for his campaign, but I’ve yet to see Youngkin even attempt to exploit that weakness by engaging on this issue. I understand the desire to play it safe from a strategy perspective, but with Democrats now trying to depress the turnout among gun owners, it’s time for Youngkin to take the fight over public safety and the right to keep and bear arms to his opponent.