Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Republican challenger, Glenn Youngkin, participate in a debate at Northern Virginia Community College, in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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By Larry Keane

The 2022 federal Congressional elections are 13 months away. Professional prognosticators and history will say Republicans supportive of Second Amendment rights will take back the U.S. House of Representatives from antigun Democrats. Even the Senate may swing to a firearm-favorable majority.

Off-year 2021 elections in New Jersey and Virginia may give a sneak peek to how voters may have changed their minds to be more supportive of the Second Amendment. Many citizens in those states are part of the greater national pattern and purchased firearms in historically high numbers over the past 18 months. What the governors of each state may do to support or restrict their rights could sway the outcome.

Gubernatorial debates have taken place in each state and at this time, the races are close. Polls close in four weeks, that’s a lifetime in politics.

Garden State Retread

New Jersey is in firm Democratic control and has long been a state with strict gun control. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is one of the staunchest gun control governors in the country. It’s something he wears as a badge of honor and he’s trying to become the first Democratic incumbent to win a second term from Jersey voters in 44 years.

Gov. Murphy and former Republican state Assemblyman Jack Ciatterelli faced off in a debate last week. Not surprisingly, the governor brought up gun control to burnish his record.

“I’m proud of our record of making New Jersey the strongest gun safety state in America,” Gov. Murphy said. “I feel sometimes my opponent is running for governor of Texas. He wants concealed carry. He wants more rounds in magazines. He voted against banning .50-caliber weapons and against universal background checks.”

Ciatterelli responded simply. “Nothing the governor just said is truthful about me.”

Gun control politicians often highjack language to deceive voters. That ruse, though, is up as more and more Americans recognize the game antigun politicians play. In the case of Gov. Murphy, “strongest gun safety” measures, that translates to severe restrictions and the chipping away at Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

New Jersey Phil Murphy gun stores
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Gov. Murphy went so extreme during his first term as to use Constitutionally-questionable authority to shut down the firearm industry and halt all background checks during the coronavirus pandemic, exactly when firearm sales soared. He was rebuffed on that overreach, was sued and ultimately forced to walk back his order and allow retailers to open and background checks to be processed.

Gov. Murphy may be proud of his blatant overreach, but New Jersey residents told a different story through their actions. In 2020, the FBI processed 178,000 NICS background checks in the Garden State. So far in the first half of 2021, that number has already reached more than 167,000. Even though Gov. Murphy isn’t predicted to be in danger, gun owners aren’t on the same page as his “strongest gun safety” measures.

McAuliffe, Part Deux

Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is re-auditioning for the role he held previously. In Virginia, governors cannot serve consecutive terms, so after sitting it out for Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, he’s giving it another go. No surprises since he served as the Commonwealth’s top executive from 2014-2018, and he’s running his old gun control playbook.

“As governor, I will work tirelessly to eliminate these weapons of war from our streets, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and keep our communities safe,” he’s said.

Those plans include implementing a taxpayer-funded gun control agencybanning Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs) – the most popular selling semiautomatic sporting rifle in the country with more than 20 million in circulation – banning so-called “high-capacity magazines,” instituting “red flag” laws that deny the accused Due Process and more. Polling shows the gap between frontrunning former Gov. McAuliffe and Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin tightening to within the margin of error.

Terry McAuliffe
Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe  (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

McAuliffe is nervous and getting help from the gun control industry. Everytown for Gun Safety, the billionaire Michael Bloomberg-backed gun control group, pledged nearly $2 million to push McAuliffe and Democrats in the state across the finish line to pass more gun control on Virginians. In the Old Dominion, nearly half a million FBI NICS checks have been processed so far in 2021. Virginians look on with watchful eyes as more gun control may be coming their way.

As firearm sales in 2021 are running strong, second only to the record 21 million firearms sold last year, the politicians’ calculus has changed. It’s why President Joe Biden’s ATF nominee David Chipman didn’t even receive the support of all Senate Democrats and was withdrawn. It’s why gun control measures in Congress have stalled. It’s why these governors’ mansions for gun control aren’t a sure bet in November.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.


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  1. I wouldn’t expect much from these new gun owners. Too many long-time gun people still put other nonsense like “free” shit, global empire building or coronapalooza hysterics above their rights. My guess is a good chunk of these new gun owners would happily piss away the 2nd for mythical and imaginary causes like “social justice” the first chance they get. Oh, they won’t get rid of their guns. They’ll keep theirs as illegal as it may become because they’re special dontchaknow. After all mommy told them so and their interpretive dance professors nodded in approval at the Bernie stickers on their Macbooks.

    • Shire-man,

      Sadly, I have to agree with you. Here is why:

      I have a cousin in Wisconsin (cough, Madison, cough) who is a reliable, lifelong Democrat voter. Of course she and her husband have never owned any firearms or even shot any as far as I can tell. In August of this year, a criminal was trying to break into their home in the whee hours of the morning while they were sleeping inside. The criminal took long enough and made enough noise that my cousin finally woke up and sent her husband springing into action–with a baseball bat and harsh words which failed to convince the aspiring home invader to go away. The aspiring home invader ultimately disengaged when her husband ran outside with his baseball bat to confront and then chase the criminal, who got away. (Fortunately, local police happened to be very close and managed to catch the criminal.)

      What protective measures is my cousin employing? She installed outside cameras and some additional outside lighting, redoubled her commitment to ensure that she always locks her windows, and is planning to install a more secure door. That’s it. No firearms.

      Even though reality just smacked my cousin upside her face, she still plans to count on government to protect her if violent criminals come knocking–or with crowbars to break-in. That is the downside of raising children to “always be kind”. And that is why we will always have a large pool of Democrat voters.

  2. New Jersey is hopeless. The minority vote, fueled by “waking round” money, busing to the polls and general “gimme, gimme, gimme” will solidly turn out for Murphy. The rest of the voters probably will stay home because it’s an off year. The gas tax increase was long enough ago to be forgotten and Murphy’s Covid mismanagement was overshadowed by Cuomo’s. I’m glad I left and I’m not looking back.

  3. Don’t hold your breath, the guy running against Murphy in Nj is not interested in restoring any lost gun rights for Nj citizens. If Jack wins the election in Nj, he is content with keeping the status quo for gun laws. When the next Democrat comes into office, they will continue chipping away at Nj 2A.

    • sound like a bright (blighted) future. Do ya’ll love your children? or yourself? gee wiz…

  4. “Off-year 2021 elections in New Jersey and Virginia may give a sneak peek to how voters may have changed their minds to be more supportive of the Second Amendment.”

    “Ciatterelli responded simply. ‘Nothing [pro-gun] is truthful about me.’”

    Does Not Compute.

      • Yes, exactly! I’m not sure which is worse: his total disdain for gun rights, or the author’s completely unfounded triumphalism over having a RINO running against Murphy.

      • I remember Rush Limbaugh eviscerating a RINO who was in a debate with Ted Kennedy in the 1990’s.

        That his timid “I’m for that, just not as radically” shtick wasn’t going to get him votes. Why vote for someone of a party supposedly against something, when you can have the actual person known for supporting something? It didn’t work.

        Of course it was “Mittens” Romney, and he lost easily. Why pick the watered down RINO, when you can have the person who authentically is known for those views. It also discourages the party faithful from coming out to vote because they aren’t Republican values. So you lose.” Bigly” as Trump used to say.

  5. Nice try Mr Keane but essentially fails. NJ is a lost cause and so is Virginia. I have posted before, the democrat ballot production machinery is firmly in place. The pre-printed ballots for McAwfull in VA are already boxed and ready to be delivered after the polls close. There they will be fed through the machines until Terry is declared the winner. Even if they didn’t have such in place, the communist voters in VA outnumber all the rest of the patriot/Republican voters in the state. This state is lost.

  6. Those elections will not tell you jack shit. Those two states are enemy territory. The “battle” has been lost there. If you live in any of those two states, you are kidding yourself if you think you can turn it around with your “vote.”

  7. I am sorry to tell you folks that without cutting the number of people who work for the federal government by a minimum of 30 percent destroying the economy of NOVA and forcing most of those people to move to find employment, NOVA will continue to push VA to the Democrats. The larger the federal government the more success the Democrats will have in VA and across the country for that matter.

    • We need to limit politicians to Term limits. So people like Pelosi, Biden, and Shumer don’t contaminate the DC into a Swamp by sticking around 25+ Years. We need to disband the ATF, put the Power back into the States and not into the Federal. America Has to limit federal Government overreach, spending, and put a limit of a President’s term on Executive Orders. Law is Supposed to be “made” by Congress and Accepted or Vetoed by the President. Today the president signs EO’s yo act as Law. Supreme court justices need a max of 25 years on the bench then retire. US President needs an Age limit of 70 to run 1st term for Office 2nd Term no later then 77 and a Full physical and Mental evaluation that clears him to be Fit for Office and For duty. If the military has To take recruits after a physical, an mental health examination then the president needs a Bipartisan workup on his.

      So it not just ” limit government.” There needs Big Corrections in the Government top to bottom.
      The 2nd Amendment I would like to see declared by the federal Government as the bases of a National Full Constitutional Carry God Given Right.
      I am for selected criminals only not being given that right even out of prison, but some that have paid the time, restitution ect to be given some rights of Firearms back even if it’s just a Shotgun, or a rifle for Hunting.

      Criminals do have a reason for for going to jail and they do have to pay the cost of their crimes. Including after jail limitations.

      • Ralph3,

        Let’s say for discussion that all of the changes which you proposed will be very beneficial. How do you/we go about actually making them happen?

        A good idea, no matter how wonderful, is a waste of time if it is impossible to implement that idea. In addition to thinking about what we should change, think about how we can actually make it happen.

  8. Florida cant even pass Constitutional Carry. Or open carry, or more positive firearms laws and protections ..
    And you got Firearm Draconian states like New Jersey doing a 180 with Virginia in Tow.

  9. I do not foresee the people in staunch Democrat strongholds such as New Jersey, New York, and California suddenly waking up, “seeing the light”, and then going on to vote for Republican candidates.

    Sure, rural precincts in those states may vote for Republican legislators–and the non-rural precincts in those states will easily vote for a strong majority (if not a supermajority) of Democrats into their legislatures. Of course they will send Democrats to their Governors’ offices.

    On the off-chance that one of those states happens to elect a Republican Governor, it will be irrelevant since that Governor will either be a RINO or impotent due to Democrats controlling their legislature.

    And I haven’t even touched on the extremely ripe possibility of election fraud to guarantee that a Democrat wins their gubernatorial elections.

  10. It’s not a a simple as just gun rights. But hopefully it’s heading in the right direction

  11. “Professional prognosticators and history will say Republicans supportive of Second Amendment rights will take back the U.S. House of Representatives from antigun Democrats.”

    History says that’s the way to bet, but don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.

  12. Vote with your dollars, buy more guns and ammo.

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