I’ve been fascinated with Gov. McAuliffe’s gun “raw deal” with the NRA (negotiated by NRA “A”-rated Brian Moran, NRA “A”-rated and endorsed Bryce Reeves, and the NRA itself, with ZERO input from gun safety groups). For anyone who actually thinks this is a good deal, see the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV)’s point-by-point debunking/demolition here. According to CSGV – and contrary to what McAuliffe keeps falsely claiming – the deal does NOT close the gun show loophole; “establishes no mechanism for the removal of these firearms [owned by someone who is the subject of a protective order] by law enforcement,” and actually “extend[s] concealed carry reciprocity to all 49 other states, which would EXCEED the # of states Virginia was granting reciprocity to before Attorney General Herring revoked reciprocity agreements with 25 states that did not meet Virginia’s permitting standards.” In short, this deal is exactly what you’d expect to be negotiated by the NRA itself, plus two guys who have been “A”-rated by that extremist organization.
By the way, just to show how defensive Gov. McAuliffe’s getting these days, given the massive criticism he’s been subject to (including an ad campaign by Everytown for Gun Safety) check out his interview earlier this week with Bruce DePuyt, in which he lashes out against Virginia Tech mom Lori Haas and Andy Parker, whose daughter was murdered while broadcasting live on TV a few months ago, outrageously charging them with doing this for the money (“I know the Everytown folks…Lori Haas…Andy Parker, I mean they’ve been on their payroll”). Incredible.
But the main point I wanted to make here was how strikingly Terry McAuliffe has veered from the messaging of his good friend and political ally Hillary Clinton, who has positioned herself to the LEFT of Bernie Sanders on one issue more than any — getting tough on the gun industry. Yet here McAuliffe is, cutting a (bad) deal with the NRA, which Hillary Clinton has blasted repeatedly, and essentially agreeing with the characterization of deal opponents as extremists. As I said to a Democratic political friend last night, if I were Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, I would have been on the phone with my former boss (Mook ran McAuliffe’s 2013 governor’s race) reading him the riot act on this one.
The problem for Clinton is that she needs McAuliffe to help win Virginia, both in the Democratic primary on March 1 and in the general election in November. Yet McAuliffe is busy weakening himself politically by alienating the powerful and well-heeled (particularly with Michael Bloomberg’s almost unlimited financial resources) gun safety community. In addition to weakening McAuliffe’s own political standing among Democrats, this opens up a line of questioning, one which reporters will quite possibly ask Clinton and McAuliffe when they campaign together in Virginia in coming weeks, regarding their apparently glaring differences when it comes to dealing with the NRA and gun issues generally.
Finally, I’d note that McAuliffe’s gun deal with the NRA is hurting Democrats’ prospects for 2017 here in Virginia, for several reasons. For one, anger over this deal potentially deprives the Democratic ticket of millions of dollars in gun safety groups’ money, plus their active support in other ways, assuming they continue to feel alienated, disrespected, etc. by McAuliffe and Company (note that Ralph Northam issued a statement praising the gun deal). In addition, this mess potentially weakens AG Mark Herring, who essentially had his legs cut out from under him in this backroom deal. And it potentially demoralizes the Democratic “base,” whose enthusiasm the 2017 Democratic ticket will need to win in that relatively low-turnout election year.
Bottom line: McAuliffe made a huge mistake, both politically and in terms of good public policy, on this gun deal with the NRA. He needs to back off of it ASAP, for a wide variety of reasons. As for Democrats who have praised the deal, they’re making a big mistake as well, and would be far better served to help McAuliffe climb out of the deep hole he’s dug, rather than join the shoveling brigade.