Youngkin runs ads claiming McAuliffe's voting rights efforts boosted crime

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Republican Glenn Youngkin's latest gubernatorial campaign ad skips the details of a voting rights effort.

A new campaign ad released by Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin suggests that by restoring voting rights to people convicted of felonies who have served out their terms, his Democratic opponent armed criminals.

In the 30-second spot, released Monday, Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard attacks former Gov. Terry McAuliffe over his record and warns "Virginia won't be safe" if he wins.

Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard claims in the video that McAuliffe "made it easier for felons to get a gun."

As Leonard speaks, the video flashes a photo of McAuliffe superimposed over a Washington Post headline from May 20, 2016, that reads "Virginia felon voting rights mean simpler path to gun ownership."

The story referenced, about McAuliffe's order during his first term as governor to automatically restore voting rights for 206,000 Virginians who had completed their sentences, notes that, under the order, such people could petition a circuit court to restore their right to possess a firearm and would have to have their requests reviewed by prosecutors who could try to block them if they deemed them still a threat.

"My actions were about giving you the right to vote, to serve on a jury and run for political office," the story says then-Gov. McAuliffe said. "My action, I didn't think it had anything to do with gun rights. I stayed away from that."

But that question was made moot that July when the GOP-dominated Virginia Supreme Court overturned McAuliffe's order, saying the governor did not have to the power to issue blanket restoration of voting rights.

Instead, McAuliffe reviewed and restored voting rights on a case-by-case basis to a reported 170,000 former felons, following the same process as had been used by previous governors of both parties.

The new spot echoes a 2020 ad from then-President Donald Trump's unsuccessful reelection campaign that warned, "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America." Trump, who has repeatedly endorsed Youngkin, himself lost Virginia to President Joe Biden by more than 10 points last year.

Though Youngkin attempted to hide his conservative views on guns and abortion since winning his party's nomination, he told a convention of the College Republican Federation of Virginia in February that he would "not sign a piece of legislation that has anything to do with imposing limitations on our Second Amendment" and that he would try to undo gun control laws passed by the Democratic-led Legislature in 2020.

The bills passed in 2020 were a "red flag" law that allowed judges to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves and others and a background check law that closed a loophole that had made it easy for criminals to buy firearms at gun shows and through private sales.

"We have to actually stand up against all of the legislation that has been passed by the Democrats," Youngkin argued. "As your governor, we will not just stand up, but we will push back — we will push back."

McAuliffe supports universal background checks and has released a detailed plan to "treat gun violence as the public health crisis it is and deploy evidence-based solutions to save lives."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.