RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s spokesman lashed out this week at a national gun-control group, which answered McAuliffe’s call for help in fall Senate races with a $2 million TV blitz but more recently blasted the governor’s gun deal with Republicans and the National Rifle Association.
Brian Coy spoke dismissively of Everytown for Gun Safety, which is associated with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, as a “group from New York” that does not have the interests of Virginians at heart.
“One group from New York and its affiliates are upset, but that does not represent Virginia views on this,” Coy said. “We had no interaction with Everytown, the national folks, until after this deal became public. We wouldn’t have even known who to call.”
McAuliffe told reporters in the fall that he had personally called Bloomberg’s “people” to arrange for the ad buy. Reminded of that, Coy did not back down.
“He talked to Howard Wolfson. Wolfson’s a political adviser to Bloomberg,” Coy said.” I don’t think he’s a policy advocate from this group. We’ve never heard from anybody at the staff level until now, after the deal has been finalized.”
Coy’s comments, made in an interview with The Washington Post, were meant to suggest that vocal backlash against the deal was coming from outside the state. They came two days after Everytown unleashed a biting ad campaign against McAuliffe on Facebook and Twitter, pairing his photo side-by-side with that of the NRA chief Wayne LaPierre.
In response to Coy’s comments, Everytown on Friday issued a statement from Andy Parker, the father of Alison Parker, the Roanoke television reporter killed on live TV in August along with cameraman Adam Ward.
“Governor McAuliffe can’t have it both ways,” Parker said. “He stood side-by-side with me and other Virginia survivors from the Everytown Survivor Network and worked closely with Everytown on the Whatever It Takes rally at the U.S. Capitol in September. I am his constituent and friend — I would have happily taken his call and pointed him to the right policy experts before he struck this dangerous deal with the gun lobby.”
On Saturday, Everytown released a copy of an email showing that the group and the administration had been in contact forat least 18 months. The August 2014 email, which concerned a letter McAuliffe wrote praising Everytown for its advocacy, was between Everytown’s communications director, Erika Soto Lamb, and three members of the McAuliffe administration, including Coy. The others were Jamie Radice, then McAuliffe’s communications chief, and Ryan O’Toole, a special assistant in constituent service.
Everytown also released a photo of McAuliffe with John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, taken at September rally organized by the group. McAuliffe had been a featured speaker at the event.
The gun deal would expand the rights of concealed-carry handgun permit holders in Virginia and across the country in exchange for tighter restrictions on domestic abusers and voluntary background checks at gun shows.
While McAuliffe’s administration hammered out the deal with the NRA and Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), gun-control activists have complained that they were caught off-guard.
Coy also pushed back on the notion. He said Lori Haas, whose daughter was shot and injured in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, was made aware that the deal was in the works “more than a week in advance” of its announcement. One of Richmond’s best-known gun-control advocates, Haas is Virginia state director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.
“It is a falsehood to say the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was not in on this on this,” he said. “That’s abjectly false. . . . She was aware, she was fully briefed and apprised of the discussion. She provided input.”
Haas, a critic of the deal, disputed that account.
“I was told about the deal less than 48 hours before The Washington Post broke the story,” she said. “I was not brought in. I was told about the deal.”