Gun control hasn’t been a huge issue for Terry McAuliffe on the campaign trail. Heck, even the gun control groups who are pouring millions of dollars into Virginia hoping to put McAuliffe in the governor’s mansion and keep Democrats in control of the state House of Delegates aren’t exactly talking up McAuliffe’s plan to ban modern sporting rifles and “large capacity” magazines. McAuliffe and his fellow Dems are doing more to run away from the issue than run on their support for more gun control laws this election cycle, but Virginia gun owners got a reminder about McAuliffe’s extreme case of hoplophobia this week thanks to a little-viewed video from 2019.
The Reload‘s Stephen Gutowski was first to report on the existence of the video, which captures McAuliffe speaking at George Mason University a couple of years ago.
“The worst thing we have, folks, are these gun shows,” McAuliffe told the audience at the school’s Haynes Lecture Series on March 18th, 2019. “Has anyone ever been to a gun show? They’re unbelievable, aren’t they? I’m talking thousands of people. Hundreds of tables. Hundreds, as far as the eye can see, with any kind of gun you want to buy, with big signs, ‘we don’t do background checks.’ So, you can go any one of these in Virginia and buy any gun you want today, folks. Today, you could do this.”
He went on to say he had an ulterior goal while negotiating a 2016 deal with Virginia Republicans to expand recognition of out-of-state gun-carry permits while stationing state police at gun shows to allow anyone to conduct a background check during a sale. In addition to helping private gun sellers do voluntary checks, he said he hoped the option would create a hidden legal liability for those who decided not to take advantage of the offering.
“My long-term thinking always was, at least they’re there, and if you want to buy a gun and the guy says, ‘you want to get a background check,’ we now can physically do it. You couldn’t do it before,” McAuliffe said. “But I’m thinking, someone goes, buys a gun, commits a mass torturous act, you had the ability to get a background check, but you didn’t get one… might be a legal theory we could use down the road on a tort claim. I was just trying to think.”
Funny that McAuliffe never mentioned his motivation for the voluntary checks at gun shows at the time, especially given the fact that some gun control groups criticized the then-governor for not cracking down harder on gun shows around the state. It’s almost like the Democrat didn’t want it publicly known that he had created hidden liabilities for law-abiding gun owners, and preferred a narrative that he was bridging the divide between the 2A and gun control lobbies.
Matthew Wolking, a Youngkin spokesman, told The Reload McAuliffe’s comments were evidence gun owners should vote for the Republican.
“From his long partnership with Michael Bloomberg to his plans to ban and confiscate guns, Terry McAuliffe is the most anti-Second Amendment politician in America,” he said. “If McAuliffe gets another four years in power, Virginians’ rights will be in jeopardy. That’s why folks who care about protecting our Constitution are voting for Glenn Youngkin.”
If the Youngkin campaign wants to highlight McAuliffe’s hostility towards the Second Amendment (and gun shows in particular), they could always point his 2019 comments and tie them in to recent efforts by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s banning gun shows at several state-owned facilities as well as the decision earlier this year by the Democrat-controlled city council in Roanoke, Virginia to ban gun shows at the city’s convention center. McAuliffe’s hostility towards gun shows doesn’t make him unusual among anti-gun Democrats, but if he’s elected governor he’ll be in a position to help impose California-style gun show bans throughout the commonwealth.
Whether Youngkin will make McAuliffe’s anti-gun attitudes a campaign issue in the closing weeks remains to be seen, however. As I mentioned above, neither candidate has spoken extensively about their views on gun control and the Second Amendment up to this point in the campaign. There are three good-sized gun shows in Virginia between now and Election Day, however, and at the very least I hope the Youngkin campaign will have a major presence there reminding gun owners of what’s at risk if they stay home on November 2nd.