Are Guns The Hidden Issue In The Virginia Elections?

Gun control didn’t really emerge as a campaign issue for either Democrat Terry McAuliffe or Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia governor’s race, despite the fact that the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement swept across the commonwealth less than two years ago. As we discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, however, while both campaigns may have downplayed their views for strategic reasons, that doesn’t mean that voters themselves are ignoring the issue.

If you want to know what Terry McAuliffe plans to do to your right to keep and bear arms if elected, you have to visit his campaign website, because he’s certainly not playing up his support for a ban on modern sporting rifles and “large capacity” magazines in any of his in-person campaign appearances. In fact, just two years after Democrats took control of every branch of Virginia government and immediately imposed the first new gun control laws in nearly three decades, it’s hard to find any Democrat in the state who’s eager to talk about the new restrictions on the Second Amendment they’re hoping to put in place if they have the chance.

The Left in Virginia remember the aftermath of the 2019 elections, when tens of thousands of Virginians turned out to their county supervisors’ meetings and demanded that they approve Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions or ordinances. Democrats were so spooked by that turn of events that despite Gov. Ralph Northam’s best efforts, attempts to pass a sweeping gun and magazine ban in 2020 were defeated when several Democratic state senators from rural western Virginia said the bill went too far for them. This year Northam and the anti-gun Dems in the state legislature didn’t even attempt to revive the ban, for fear of energizing gun owners in an election year.

Republican Glenn Youngkin has also run a campaign that’s been largely devoid of any talk of 2A issues, though for very different reasons than McAuliffe. Youngkin hasn’t called for the state to pass a Constitutional Carry law or demanded the repeal of the gun control laws imposed by Democrats over the past couple of years. He didn’t fill out candidate questionnaires from the National Rifle Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which led to the 2A groups withholding their endorsement. Youngkin’s campaign website doesn’t even mention McAuliffe’s support for gun control, though it does tout Youngkin’s support for programs like Operation Ceasefire and Project Exile that focus on violent offenders and not legal gun owners.

The Republican has instead sought to make inroads among parents in the northern Virginia suburbs, as well as the counties surrounding Richmond and Virginia Beach, by focusing like a laser on public schools. Youngkin had almost no choice after McAuliffe gifted him with a “gaffe” that was really just straight talk from the Democrat; parents shouldn’t be the ones in charge of their child’s education. McAuliffe is the candidate of the administrators and teachers unions, as he made clear in his final campaign rally by appearing alongside Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers. Youngkin is the candidate of parents, as he made equally clear at his own final campaign rally in Loudon County; ground zero in the state for parental protests over Critical Race Theory and school administrators keeping quiet about sexual assaults on campus.

While I’ve complained that Youngkin’s campaign was playing it a little too safe for my liking in trying to appeal to the suburban vote by avoiding talk of gun bans or permitless carry and focusing on the Left’s control of our public schools and our kids’ education, there’s no denying that the strategy has been effective. Even when McAuliffe’s allies tried to use Youngkin’s lack of an NRA endorsement to their advantage by running ads accusing the Republican of being a secret gun control supporter, it backfired and instead put a spotlight on the deceptive advertising and the funding it received from Dominion Energy, the state’s largest utility.

But even if both candidates have strategic reasons to avoid a deep dive into gun control or the Second Amendment, that doesn’t mean that the right to keep and bear arms isn’t an issue for voters. I know plenty of gun owners across the commonwealth who’ve been eagerly waiting for Election Day for almost two years now so that they can send a message to Democrats in Richmond; mess with our rights at your electoral peril.

If Republicans are able to take back the governor’s mansion and the House of Delegates in Virginia, there’ll be a lot of talk about nationalized elections, whether or not this was a referendum on Joe Biden, and why Democrats should be running away from things like Critical Race Theory. Don’t discount the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement and the grassroots energy of voters that was behind it, however. That energy hasn’t dissipated over the last two years, and I believe its one of the big reasons why Virginia’s elections are so close as we reach the finish line.