Demand for gun safety could flip Virginia legislature from red to blue


Gun policy is the top issue among Virginia voters, who will head to the polls on Nov. 5.

As Virginia voters head to the polls on Nov. 5, gun policy is top of mind, according to a new Washington Post poll released Friday. Republicans currently hold a narrow lead in both legislative chambers, but every seat in both chambers is in play this year, meaning Democrats have a chance to seize control of one or both next month.

When asked which issues are most important, 75% of registered voters said gun control, eclipsing education, at 70%, and health care, at 66%, as the top issue.

"This poll is further evidence that Virginia's elected officials who side with the gun lobby in opposing widely popular and common sense solutions should be extremely worried," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. "For the first time, pro gun safety voters are now more motivated than anti gun safety voters and that gap is widening. We expect this trend to continue in Virginia and across the country."

According to the Post, Everytown has pledged $2.5 million to help elect politicians in favor of gun safety policies.

The issue of gun safety hit home for Virginians in late May when Virginia Beach was added to the growing list of American cities devastated by a mass shooting incident. A dozen people died on May 31 when a gunman started shooting at a city government building, prompting the governor to call a special legislative session focused on gun safety.

But rather than consider even one piece of legislation, Republicans voted to end the special session after just 90 minutes. Weeks later, the NRA made a massive $200,000 campaign donation to the Republican majority leader of the House of Delegates.

"It couldn't be clearer — the NRA is rewarding Virginia Republicans for standing with them instead of their constituents," Jessica Post, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said at the time of the NRA donation. "Virginia Republicans are extreme and out of touch when it comes to gun safety."

Post's statements are backed up by the latest poll, which shows 58% of Virginians support stricter gun laws in the state.

When it comes to specific policies, Republican lawmakers are even more out of touch. Expanding background checks is supported by 88% of Virginians, while laws to temporarily seize guns from someone law enforcement deems a threat, known as "red flag" laws, has the support of 82% of Virginians.

"The majority of Virginians have long supported comprehensive and common-sense gun violence prevention laws, but in the twelve years since the tragedy at Virginia Tech, Republicans in the General Assembly have only made gun laws more lax," Kathryn Gilley, communications director for the Virginia House Democrats, said in a statement. "Virginians have had enough."

According to the poll, those who say gun policy is very important are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. In addition, those who say they are certain to vote in the Nov. 5 election support Democrats over Republicans by a 52%-41% margin.

The NRA's national office is located in Virginia, and Republican allegiance to that organization over the demands of constituents could be just enough to see Democrats gain control of the state legislature.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.