Shameless: Watts tries to blame Youngkin for UVA shooting

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Another high-profile shooting, another shameless attempt by Moms Demand Actions’ Shannon Watts to exploit a tragedy for her own political purposes. In her latest endeavor to tie in a shooting generating national headlines to a supposed need for more gun laws, the Watts is blaming Gov. Glenn Youngkin for the Sunday night shooting on the University of Virginia campus that left three students dead and two others injured.

According to Watts, this tragedy wouldn’t have taken place if only Youngkin had done “something” on gun control in his first year in office.

Youngkin, a Republican, has faced criticism following the shooting for prioritizing other issues, such as combating critical race theory in schools and bolstering parental rights, over gun control.

But as investigators have yet to reveal how Jones obtained the handgun used in the shooting, it’s unclear whether any legislation could have prevented or altered the events leading up to the shooting.

“You’ll be glad to know the governor of Virginia, a lifetime NRA member, is praying for the University of Virginia,” Shannon Watts, founder of the gun safety group Moms Demand Action, which was founded following the Sandy Hook tragedy, tweeted Monday. “His priorities are restricting trans rights, critical race theory and abortion. He’s done nothing to address gun violence.”

“If your prayers without action worked, the shooting at the University of Virginia wouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Watts added, replying to Youngkin. “DO YOUR JOB.”

So what action does Watts think Youngkin should have taken that would have prevented these shootings from taking place? She doesn’t say.

Since her tweet on Monday trying to name and shame Youngkin, however, Watts has shifted her position slightly and is now taking UVA officials to task for not following through on reports that the suspect had a gun back in September.

Contrary to Watts’ claim the university didn’t know for sure whether the suspect had a gun on campus when UVA officials were told by a third party back in September that he had a firearm. The problem is that they never actually spoke to the student in question. It looks like there were other failures on the part of the university system as well, including slow-walking a disciplinary proceeding against the student after he failed to report his arrest for carrying a concealed firearm without a license last year.

As for Watts referencing Virginia’s “red flag” law, so far there’s been no word from prosecutors or police that would indicate anyone ever reported the suspect as a danger to himself or others before he allegedly opened fire inside a charter bus filled with students returning from a trip to Washington, D.C. Officials did not know for certain whether the suspect possessed a gun, and at this point there’s no indication that he would have met the criteria for an Extreme Risk Protection Order.

But back to Watts’ assertion that Glenn Youngkin could have prevented this shooting if only he’d acted on gun control legislation this year. There are several flaws in her argument, starting with the fact that Democrats had complete control of state government in 2020 and 2021 and did pass about a half-dozen new gun laws; laws that Watts and Moms Demand Action praised at the time, but none of which had any impact on the suspect.

Watts also conveniently ignores the fact that Democrats still maintain control of the state Senate in Virginia, and yet that body advanced no gun control legislation at all this year. In fact, Democrats didn’t even run their bill to ban “assault weapons” last year either, despite then-Gov. Ralph Northam declaring after the bill was defeated in 2020 that he would bring it back and twist enough arms to get it enacted.

Of course, even if Northam had managed to get his gun ban through the legislature, it wouldn’t have prevented the UVA shooting, in which the suspect used a handgun. But the simple truth is that gun control wasn’t a priority for either party in Virginia this year, and Shannon Watts is well aware of Democrats’ reluctance to push the issue after the drubbing they took in the 2021 statewide elections.

If Watts is convinced, however, that there’s a gun control law out there that would have stopped this shooting before it took place, it should be easy enough to tell us what it is. Shannon Watts has no solutions, however, only scapegoats and the empty promise that it will be the next round of gun control legislation that will end “gun violence.”