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The Race for Virginia: Terry McAuliffe on Gun Safety

Who will be Virginia’s next governor?

Until recently, northern Virginia was home to the NRA headquarters, making the Commonwealth quite literally the gun lobby’s backyard.

Some of the deadliest mass shootings in recent history have occurred in Virginia: 32 people were killed and 17 more were injured in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. In May 2019, a former city employee murdered 12 people and wounded four others in Virginia Beach. 

Weeks after the Virginia Beach shooting, the governor called a special session to address gun violence in the Commonwealth. Delegate Kirk Cox, who was at the time Speaker of the House and is now running to be the Republican nominee for governor, gaveled out the session after only 90 minutes.

Virginians were rightly upset at the lack of action. In 2019, voters elected gun safety majorities to both the House of Delegates and state senate, and in 2020, Virginia signed a historic gun safety package into law. The legislation, which expanded background checks and established extreme risk protection orders, was the first gun safety legislation passed in the Commonwealth in nearly a decade. 

To build on this progress and continue to save lives from gun violence, Virginia must elect a governor who will continue to prioritize gun violence prevention.

Terry McAuliffe’s Record on Gun Safety

Democrat Terry McAuliffe served as governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2017. As the first Southern governor to earn an “F” rating from the NRA while working with a Republican-controlled legislature, Terry McAuliffe has a long history of taking on the gun lobby and working with gun safety advocates. 

During his term as governor, McAuliffe vetoed 15 dangerous GOP gun bills, including legislation aimed at loosening restrictions on concealed carry permits and training requirements. He worked across the aisle to pass a series of bipartisan reforms, including background checks for private gun show dealers. 

Terry McAuliffe’s Plan to Address Gun Violence

As he returns to the campaign trail to run for his second term, McAuliffe remains committed to addressing gun violence as a public health issue. He recently released a holistic gun safety platform rooted in commonsense regulation and evidence-based community intervention.

Assault Weapons

Research has shown that state-level assault weapons bans are effective in preventing mass shooting deaths. Following the failure of a bill that would have banned the future sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines during the General Assembly’s 2020 session, McAuliffe has pledged to end the sale and purchase of these firearms statewide. 

Community Violence Research and Intervention

In the 2020 legislative session, the governor and General Assembly allocated several million dollars to supporting community-based programs across the Commonwealth. McAuliffe’s plan calls for increased, permanent state and federal investment in Virginia’s community violence intervention programs, as well as close collaboration with partners and stakeholders like healthcare and education professionals. 

To further increase collaboration between community leaders and state agencies, McAuliffe proposed the first Virginia Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Expanding groundbreaking gun safety research at Virginia’s institutions of higher education will play a crucial role in this initiative, creating opportunities to implement targeted and equitable solutions.

Strengthening Background Checks

In 2020, Virginia passed a monumental background check law. If elected governor, Terry McAuliffe plans to expand the current background check system to include ownership transfers between friends and family, raise the purchase age to 21, mandate waiting periods, and enact a permit-to-purchase law. 

This session, Virginia lawmakers closed a loophole that allowed individuals with domestic violence misdemeanors to purchase firearms. But individuals who have committed hate crime misdemeanors are not prohibited from purchasing firearms in Virginia. As a part of his gun safety agenda, McAuliffe has promised to close this loophole.

Ghost Guns

Undetectable and untraceable “ghost guns” all too enough end up in the hands of individuals who are legally prohibited from owning firearms. In January 2021, a bill to ban these dangerous weapons passed through the Virginia House but in February, the bill failed to passed the state senate. McAuliffe has promised to work with the General Assembly to make sure this critical legislation is addressed next year. 

Our Take

During his first term as governor, McAuliffe pushed for bold, lifesaving policies despite intense opposition from Virginia Republicans. Now that the Virginia General Assembly is back in Democratic control, we’re excited to see what he could accomplish with a gun safety majority. 

Virginia needs a leader who is willing to build on recent progress. McAuliffe’s proposals demonstrate a commitment to achieving benchmark reforms while supporting innovative community-based solutions.


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