And in the aftermath of the massacre in Connecticut, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II said the state should consider allowing teachers to carry weapons at schools. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) went further Wednesday, offering a bill that would require schools to arm some teachers or other staff members.
But there’s evidence that the issue may have lost some of its power to swing statewide races, as Democratic candidates feel less pressure to toe a pro-gun line.
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D), who is up for reelection in 2014 and has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, said this week that “the status quo” could not be maintained. “There’s got to be a way to put reasonable restrictions, particularly as we look at assault weapons, as we look at these fast clips of ammunition.”
Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who many expect to face Cuccinelli in the governor’s race next year, called for “mainstream restrictions on dangerous weapons that we can agree on,” including an assault weapons ban.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — who dropped out of the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in November but says he is considering an independent bid — broke with McDonnell on the possibility of arming teachers.
“The Lieutenant Governor believes that the job of a teacher is to teach and he does not support arming teachers,” Bolling’s deputy chief of staff, Ibbie Hedrick, said in an e-mail. “If school security needs to be enhanced, it should be done by trained law enforcement personnel.”
And in this year’s marquee U.S. Senate race, Timothy M. Kaine (D) beat another former governor, George Allen (R), despite Allen’s “A” rating from the NRA and Kaine’s “F.” Gun issues did not play a prominent role in the race.
That marked a change from two decades ago, when Allen won the 1993 race for governor, partly by attacking Attorney General Mary Sue Terry (D) for her support of gun control.
In 2001, Warner’s gubernatorial win “sealed a big change in political thinking about the issue: that even for Democrats running statewide, gun-control issue was a sure loser,” said Mark Rozell, a public policy professor at George Mason University. “Democrats running statewide from then mostly seemed to bend over backwards to prove how gun friendly they were.”
Now, Rozell said, “the combination of demographic shifts in Virginia and the tragedy in Connecticut will move Democratic candidates running statewide to push for gun restrictions, with much less, if any, fear of negative political repercussions.”