With a Republican soon to take over the Executive Mansion, the National Rifle Association is seeking to remove a prominent gun control advocate from the state’s crime board.
NRA officials in Virginia said Thursday they would appeal to Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin and ask him to remove Lori Haas from the Virginia State Crime Commission, an agency that studies and makes recommendations related to public safety.
Haas, whose daughter was wounded during the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting in which 32 students and professors were slain, is a regular voice in the Virginia legislature in favor of stricter gun control legislation. Haas, who was appointed to the commission by Gov. Ralph Northam, could not immediately be reached for comment.
It’s unclear if Youngkin will heed the NRA’s request. The governor-elect’s relationship with the NRA has been more distant than that of past GOP candidates, and he did not emphasize gun control during his campaign, other than saying generally he supports the Second Amendment. The Youngkin transition on Thursday declined to comment specifically on the NRA's request.
As the Virginia director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Haas was a prominent supporter of the package of gun control bills Northam signed in 2020, including measures to require universal background checks for gun purchases and restore the limit on handgun purchases to one a month.
The NRA broadly opposed the package, which drew an estimated 22,000 protesters to the state Capitol and vicinity in January 2020.
Two NRA officials said Haas’ membership in the crime commission is a conflict of interest given that she is also a lobbyist. The crime commission was recently tasked with studying a bill to ban assault-style weapons in Virginia, a policy Haas supports but that failed in 2020 in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Last July, the NRA declined to endorse Youngkin in the governor’s race, even as it endorsed the two other candidates on the party’s statewide ticket. Youngkin declined to complete a candidate questionnaire the advocacy group issued, which asks candidates to state their position on topics like banning assault weapons and limiting handgun purchases. Traditionally, the survey has been considered part of the NRA’s endorsement process, which, among other things, includes promotion among its grassroots network.
Still, the NRA will likely appeal its agenda to Youngkin, who may be more amenable to it compared with Northam or former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Republicans are also projected to take control of the House of Delegates, and Lieutenant gov-elect Winsome Sears, a gun-rights Republican, will replace Democrat Justin Fairfax as the tie-breaking vote in the 21-19 Senate, controlled by Democrats.
D.J. Spiker, the NRA’s Virginia state director, said the group was “still putting together its legislative platform, but would not seek an overly offensive legislative agenda,” in part because Democrats still control the Senate.
Spiker said the group’s top priority would be to seek a repeal of a new law that allows local city councils and boards of supervisors to implement their own gun restrictions in government buildings and public spaces, like parks or community centers. They can also ban guns at permitted events.
Spiker said the law has created a patchwork of policies that could leave people confused as they travel from one locality to another.
Spiker said the group would also consider lobbying for changes to the state’s “red flag” law, which creates a path for law enforcement to quickly seek court orders to remove firearms from people in crisis.