Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) boasted at Virginia Tech, site of the 2007 shootings that killed 32 people, that he opposed universal background checks and was proud of his “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. Terry McAuliffe, his Democratic opponent for Governor, vowed to support efforts to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and vowed to prioritize the safety of students over the group’s ratings.
In the final debate of the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial campaign Thursday, both candidates were asked whether they supported universal background checks for gun purchases — a concept supported by 92 percent of Virginians according to a January poll. McAuliffe told the Blacksburg, Virginia audience that, “as a parent [and] a spouse,” as a gun owner, and as a hunter, he supported both the Second Amendment and universal background checks. Noting the pin he was wearing in memory of the 2007 victims, McAuliffe said, “some people should not own guns.”
Cuccinelli responded by dismissing the need for background checks, telling the questioner, “none of what you’ve asked about would have affected that tragedy” at Virginia Tech. Cuccinelli then bragged that the National Rifle Association, which has steadfastly opposed against any efforts to check the criminal backgrounds of arms purchasers:
CUCCINELLI: I’m an ‘A’ rated NRA candidate. I’m running against the only — the only — ‘F’-rated candidate running statewide. And that’s Terry McAuliffe. And his allies are running an ad right now in Northern Virginia that falsely claims that we can get safety from some of these restrictions on law abiding citizens.
Watch the video:
Cuccinelli was referring to a new ad by Independence USA PAC, a group created by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), which notes that Cuccinelli opposed closing the gun-show loophole and opposed comprehensive background checks at gun shows — stances that he reiterated in his comments.
Undeterred, McAuliffe replied: “My opponent likes to say I that I got an ‘F’ from the NRA. I don’t care what grade I got from the NRA. As governor, I want to make sure our communities are safe. I never want to see another Newtown or Aurora or Virginia Tech ever again.”
The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund has spent more than $500,000 in support of Cuccinelli so far in 2013 — the most of any outside group to date.
While Cuccinelli is correct that McAuliffe is the only one of the six major party candidates running for Virginia’s three statewide offices with an “F” rating — the Democratic nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general received “D” ratings from the group — that may not matter much. A year ago, Virginia voters gave majority support to both President Barack Obama and Sen. Tim Kaine (D). Kaine also received an “F” rating from the group and the NRA’s political committee spend more than $10 million to try to defeat Obama in 2012.