Virginia Gun Control Advocate Lies About Law in Attempt to Shame Youngkin **UPDATED**

AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File

After Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin defanged gun control activists this week by vetoing more than 30 of the anti-2A measures sent to his desk by Democrat legislators, I wondered how long it would be before we saw them pitch a public fit over his defense of the Second Amendment. 


The answer? Not long at all. In today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, longtime anti-gun activist Lori Haas is pictured in a column bylined by the editors of Bloomberg Opinion blasting Youngkin for vetoing one bill in particular; a "safe storage" measure that would have required gun owners to store their firearms locked and unloaded whenever there are children or prohibited individuals present in the home. It's not clear if Haas was the actual writer of this editorial or why her picture appears in the column, but the author writes that Youngkin "clearly" doesn't consider the safety of children a priority since he vetoed the bill, which she claims is just a "no-brainer." 

This shouldn’t be about scoring political points; it’s about safeguarding lives and ensuring responsible gun ownership.

Consider the terrifying incident just last year when a 6-year-old shot a teacher in Newport News. That child found his mother’s firearm, brought it to school and shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner, in the hand and chest. Zwerner is lucky to be alive, although she says she now carries the physical and psychological scars so many shooting victims are forced to live with in this country. We’re lucky no children were injured or killed during that incident. Shockingly, prosecutors had no recourse to file state charges against the mother whose negligence left someone shot. Instead, the mother pleaded guilty to federal charges.


Not-so-shockingly, a gun control activist is full of it. 

Despite what the column claims, Deja Taylor was charged by the Commonwealth Attorney in Newport News after a grand jury indicted her on two counts: felony child neglect and a misdemeanor count of recklessly leaving a firearm that endangers a child. Taylor ended up taking a guilty plea in August of 2023. It's an outright falsehood for the author to state that prosecutors had "no recourse" under current state law. They did, they took it, and they sent Taylor away using the laws that are already on the books. 

The mother of the first-grade student accused in the Richneck Elementary School shooting pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to a felony child neglect charge.

Deja Taylor's misdemeanor charge of endangering a child by reckless storage of a firearm was nolle prossed in court, meaning prosecutors set that charge aside. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors said they will not seek a sentence that is longer than state sentencing guidelines, which call for six months in jail or prison. Her sentencing is set for Oct. 27.

Taylor's sentencing didn't take place until last December, but she got far more time than what prosecutors were seeking. A judge sentenced Taylor to two years in prison on the felony child neglect charge; slightly more time than the 21-month sentence she received in federal court after pleading guilty to using marijuana as a gun owner. 


We already have laws in Virginia that punish parents for being negligent with their firearms and endangering kids. We don't need a law mandating guns be locked up and unloaded at all times when there's a child in the home. That one-size-fits-all policy not only deprives parents from deciding the most appropriate steps to take to keep their kids safe, it infringes on their right to protect their family from intruders; a point Youngkin made in his veto statement.

This legislation would limit individuals' access to firearms in their homes.

A similar law was deemed unconstitutional in District of Columbia v. Heller. The court ruled that mandates on storage or trigger locks that make it impractical for citizens to use firearms for the lawful purpose of self-defense are unconstitutional. 

The proposed language could prove problematic in cases of necessary home defense when firearm access may be crucial. Further, it would completely disarm individuals who cannot afford a storage device. While the intent may not be to strip the poorest Virginians of their right to self-defense, the proposal would price them out of the market for a fundamental right. 

The suggested exemption for carrying weapons is impractical, for example, while sleeping or doing household chores. This exemption leaves individuals with only one option for self defense; such a requirement would lead to law-abiding Virginians carrying their weapons irresponsibly and dangerously. Accordingly, I veto this bill.


The writer of this column didn't bother to do the slightest bit of research before accusing Youngkin of turning his back on kids or they simply didn't care that they wre lying when they said that Virginia law left local prosecutors stymied and unable to pursue charges against Taylor. Either way, they're dead wrong about the current law in the Commonwealth. We do have measures in place that protect kids while still allowing gun owners to defend their families from harm, and the governor made the right call in vetoing Senate Bill 368/ House Bill 183. 


This post has been updated to include the fact that the column's byline is from the editors at Bloomberg Opinion and not Lori Haas. 

**UPDATE 2**

After I reached out to the paper to inform them of the falsehoods in the column, it's now been updated to read:

"Shockingly, allowing a minor access to a firearm is only a misdemeanor under state law. The mother wound up pleading guilty to felony child neglect — she was sentenced to two years — but the gun charges were left to federal prosecutors." 

Even that update isn't entirely accurate as far as I'm concerned. Taylor ended up taking a guilty plea to the felony child neglect charge, but local prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor charge of endangering a child by reckless storage of a firearm. Gun charges weren't "left to federal prosecutors." The Commonwealth Attorney decided not to pursue state-level charges. 


The editor also added this note to the end of this story:

Correction: Earlier print and online versions of this column incorrectly stated that prosecutors had no recourse to file state charges against the mother of the 6-year-old who shot a Newport News teacher. The mother, Deja Taylor, pleaded guilty to federal gun charges and state felony child neglect. 

Now, is it really "shocking" that Virginia's law regarding minors gaining access to a firearm is a misdemeanor and not a felony offense? Not if you know anything about gun laws around the country. Even in anti-gun states like California and New York, violations of storage laws are misdemeanor offenses, not felonies. That might be shocking to some anti-gunners but it also seems like that's the standard penalty, even in the most gun-controlled states in the Union. 

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