Virginia Republicans see gun rights as the path back to a red commonwealth

The Republican Party of Virginia sees an opportunity to harness the energy of outraged gun rights voters to seize back seats in the state legislature and help President Trump win the commonwealth in 2020.

Since Democrat Terry McAuliffe was elected governor in 2013, edging out Republican Ken Cucinelli by just 2.5 percentage points, and Democrat Ralph Northam succeeded McAuliffe by winning in 2017, Virginia Republicans have struggled to fire up their base and win statewide races. More recently, on Election Day last year, Democrats swept into control of the Virginia state legislature, which Republicans had dominated for years.

But Democrats’ aggressive campaign of gun control legislation in Richmond, which includes magazine capacity restrictions and a ban on “assault-style” weapons, fired up Second Amendment activists who comprise groups such as the Virginia Civil Defense League or the National Rifle Association, which is based in the state. The activists created “Second Amendment sanctuary” counties all over the commonwealth, and Virginia Republican lawmakers took notice.

“Well, for the 5th District, I talked about, it was 10,000 square miles, 21 counties, two cities. I’ve never seen the type of mobilization of people that I’ve had that I’ve seen in the Second Amendment sanctuary movement,” Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman told the Washington Examiner.

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