November 6, 2013
Ladd Everitt, (202) 701-7171,  
Richmond, VA—Top candidates on the Democratic ticket won office yesterday in Virginia’s off-year election after championing gun reforms including universal background checks and limits on the size of ammunition magazines. Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe defeated Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  Lieutenant Governor-elect Ralph Northam defeated E.W. Jackson. The race between Democratic state Senator Mark Herring and Republican state Senator Mark Obenshain for Attorney General is currently too close to call (no Democrat has won this office in an election in 24 years in the Commonwealth).

“The prevailing view among pundits after the Colorado recall elections was that no candidate would ever dare campaign on the issue of common-sense gun reform again,” said Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) executive director Josh Horwitz.  “Maybe they should have waited a couple of months before carving that dubious theory in stone.”

The candidates at the top of the Democratic ticket were proud and vocal about their support for new laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Terry McAuliffe, for example, stated the following during his final debate with Ken Cuccinelli on October 24th:  “My opponent likes to say I got an ‘F’ from the NRA. I don’t care what grade I got from the NRA.  As governor, I want to make sure our communities are safe … I never want to see another Newtown or Aurora or Virginia Tech again … There are people who should not buy weapons and you don’t know that unless you have universal background checks … It is time we stand up and fight.”  Remarks like this prompted David Adams, legislative director of the Virginia Shooting Sports Association, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association (NRA), to say, “I don’t think you’ve seen any Democratic candidate run in Virginia as rabidly anti-gun as McAuliffe has.”

McAuliffe and other like-minded candidates weren’t just staking out principled positions, however. They were practicing good politics. A survey conducted by the firm Public Policy Polling on November 2-3rd asked likely voters how Cuccinelli’s opposition to expanded background checks would factor into their vote. Forty-seven percent said that position would make them less likely to vote for him, as opposed to 18 percent who said it made them more likely to do so. When told that McAuliffe favored prohibiting individuals from carrying guns on college campuses, 40 percent said that position would make them more likely to back him. 29 percent said it made them less likely to do so.

The NRA’s war chest failed to reverse this trend. The gun lobby organization spent more than $500,000 in Virginia during this election cycle, all of it on Republicans, with little to show for it. And in another sign of changing times, they were handily outspent by new gun violence prevention PACs like Independence PAC USA and Americans for Responsible Solutions.

“Coming off the 2012 elections, this is just further confirmation that the NRA is a paper tiger,” said Lori Haas, CSGV’s Virginia Director and the head of Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws, a project of CSGV’s sister organization, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. “For all their supposed political power, the gun violence prevention movement outspent them in this election and out-organized them on the ground where it counts the most. And this is just the beginning.”

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.

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