ICYMI — A new story in The Hill reports Democratic candidates John Bell (SD-13) and Sheila Bynum-Coleman (HD-66) are forging new ground in Virginia, making gun safety a priority issue in their General Assembly campaigns.
The ads are the latest reflection of a changing debate over gun control, once the third rail of American politics, especially among suburban, exurban and rural Democrats. Those attitudes have changed as the epidemic of mass shootings mounts — even in a state like Virginia, where the NRA is headquartered.
In the ads, which are supported by Everytown for Gun Safety, Bynum-Coleman shares her personal story of gun violence and slams her opponent Speaker Kirk Cox for blocking action on gun safety.
The Republican lawmaker blocked consideration of several gun control bills in a special session in June called by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in the wake of a shooting in Virginia Beach that left 13 people dead. Cox called the special session an “election year stunt.”
John Bell, a retired Air Force officer, highlights his work in the House of Delegates as an advocate for gun safety legislation. In contrast, Bell’s opponent, Loudoun County Supervisor Geary Higgins, has an abysmal record on guns. Higgins loudly opposed even studying gun regulations after a series of incidents where homes were hit by stray bullets. Earlier this month, a woman in Loudoun County was struck in a similar incident.
Both Bynum-Coleman and Bell are running for office in districts former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but which are currently held by Republicans. A federal court ordered several Virginia legislative districts redrawn ahead of the 2019 elections, giving Democrats a strong chance to pick up the single seat they need to win control of the state Senate and the two seats they need to win back the House of Delegates.