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Off the Marks in the Old Dominion
How to Claim Victory Out of Nothing While Hiding Defeat

by Sean Oberle

November 12, 2001

Ah, the Brady Campaign ... drinking tea with the Mad Hatter again.

The NRA declines to endorse one candidate although he has the stronger gun rights position. The other candidate -– supported by the Brady Campaign –- not only runs from his gun control stance from previous losing campaigns, he actually seeks NRA endorsement. The flip-flopper wins, and the Brady Campaign claims that this result is a defeat for the NRA.

This is what happened this past Election Day in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Mark Warner (D) courted the NRA for endorsement. Mark Earley (R) wanted that endorsement too, but the NRA withheld it because of a few votes in his political past and because he made a statement that he would veto any legislation to repeal Virginia’s one gun purchase a month law. Lacking the NRA endorsement, Early lost.

Sarah Brady, in feigning victory, asserts, 

“Mark Warner supports upholding Virginia's gun laws – including the landmark one-gun-a-month statute that has been instrumental in reducing gun trafficking – and the law that prevents carrying concealed weapons in bars and restaurants.” (See 

Well, that characterization about Warner’s positions may be true, but claiming victory here is either delusional or deceitful unless the loser, Earley, opposed those positions. He didn’t. On the one-gun-a-month law, Warner and Earley actually agreed. I repeat: Earley said he would veto a repeal of the law. If Earley ever made a statement one way or the other on expanding the CCW law, I don’t know of it. In any event, neither he nor Warner made it an issue.

For good or for bad, gun control was not much of an issue in the governor’s race. Mark Warner saw to that by fleeing from his past pro control stances, by claiming he supports the Second Amendment and by courting the NRA long enough to make that organization indecisive. In fact, a pamphlet I received from the group “Sportsmen for Warner” claimed (honestly or not) that Warner supports the INDIVIDUAL’S right under the Second Amendment.

How Brady Actually Lost in Virginia

What the Brady Campaign does not mention in its press release is the unsuccessful telephone campaign it made for the staunchly anti gun rights candidate for attorney general, Don McEachin (D). McEachin’s victorious opponent Jerry Kilgore (R) is staunchly pro gun rights. It was in this race – not the gubernatorial race – where the candidates squared off on the one-gun and expanded CCW issues. 

Sarah Brady also made a public appearance for McEachin with Northern Virginia U.S. Congressman Jim Moran (D), in which they attacked the NRA-connected Law Enforcement Alliance of America’s (LEAA) statements about the McEachin-Kilgore race. They did not actually dispute any of the LEAA observations; they simply erected an ad-hominem attack of the LEAA based on its connections to the NRA.

Facts: Where there was a significant difference in Virginia between candidates on gun rights, the pro-rights guy won. Where the candidates made gun rights an issue, the pro-rights guy won. The staunchly anti-gun candidate was unable to ride the coattails of the top of the ticket.

How Brady Feigns Victory in Virginia

The Brady Campaign’s victory claim on Warner vs. Earley seems to be based on comparing its own email with a letter sent by the NRA.

In the final days of the campaign, the NRA did send out a letter to us Virginian NRA members – still withholding endorsement – that finally gave Earley lukewarm support. He got an A- while Warner got a C. Talk about damning with faint praise. 

C rating? I read that as meaning he probably won’t push gun rights farther back, but he also won’t promote them. The NRA defines a C rating as having a mixed past on gun rights. This typically is derived from past votes, but because Warner has never held public office, the NRA had to compare his recent outreach effort to the NRA with his past campaign stands favoring gun control.

Given that other issues – notably the condition of Virginia’s northern roads – were much larger, many pro-gun voters likely chose Warner thinking, 

“Well, since Earley is not running a campaign on supporting gun rights and could not get NRA endorsement and since Warner is not opposing gun rights and actually sought NRA endorsement, gun rights in Virginia probably will tread water for four years ... at least as far as the governor is concerned.” (Let’s hope they were correct.)

The Brady Campaign, however, notes that it sent an email to its supporters urging them to vote for Warner. The NRA’s lukewarm letter and the Brady email seem to be enough for Brady to claim victory. Neither probably had much effect on the vote.

According to the Brady Campaign press release 

“Mrs. Brady said that Warner was able to make inroads with sportsmen and hunters in Virginia because so many of them do not follow the extremist positions of the NRA.” 

Hmm? Your guy sought the NRA’s endorsement, Mrs. Brady. It seems to me that he was attempting to signal (honestly or not) that he was comfortable with that “extremist agenda.”

Sean Oberle is a Featured Writer and gun control analyst for He can be reached at View other articles from him at


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They should have stopped with "Congress shall make no Law..."

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