Leading groups on each side of the gun debate have issued competing endorsements in the race for Virginia governor over the last two weeks.
The National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund first endorsed Republican Ed Gillespie on August 1. The gun rights group said Gillespie would end current Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe's pursuit of new gun-control measures.
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"The 2017 election will be pivotal in preserving Virginians’ Second Amendment rights," said Chris W. Cox, chairman of the fund, in a statement. "We must elect a pro-Second Amendment governor who will end the McAuliffe-Herring era of hostility toward law-abiding gun owners. Gillespie is a strong supporter of our constitutional rights who will stand up to Michael Bloomberg and his out-of-state gun control groups. Gillespie is a leader in the growing national movement to expand our Second Amendment freedoms."
Gillespie earned an "A" rating from the group as well. His opponent, Democrat Ralph Northam, earned an "F" rating from the NRA for "hostility toward law-abiding citizens' constitutional right to self-defense."
The Americans for Responsible Solutions Political Action Committee took the opposite view on Tuesday when it endorsed Northam.
The group, founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, said Northam would push for tighter gun-control laws. It also said the next governor would play an important role in the gun debate.
"Virginia’s next governor will have an important role in combatting gun violence and advancing solutions to make communities safer and we believe Ralph Northam is exceptionally suited to take on that challenge," Kelly said in a statement. "Lieutenant Governor Northam understands the importance of protecting the rights of law-abiding Virginians and keeping guns out of the hands of violent felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people. Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC is proud to endorse Lieutenant Governor Northam, a leader who has the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and push for bipartisan, commonsense laws, like closing the loopholes in Virginia's background check system, that will help prevent senseless gun tragedies and make Virginia families safer."
The NRA said on Tuesday that the gun-control group's endorsement of Northam tethers him to former President Barack Obama and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"Ralph Northam is being endorsed by out-of-state gun control groups because he supports the same extreme gun control agenda pushed by President Obama and New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg," Catherine Mortensen, an NRA spokesperson, told the Washington Free Beacon.
"Not only does Ralph Northam support firearm and ammunition bans, he supports gun rationing for law-abiding citizens through the unpopular one-gun-a-month policy," she said. "A vote for Ralph Northam is a vote to extend the McAuliffe era of hostility towards law-abiding gun owners."