Washington Secrets

Gun control fan Terry McAuliffe is Virginia's newest gun owner

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Gun Control

Just because Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is pushing for an assault weapons ban and one-gun-a-month restriction in the Old Dominion doesn't mean he's opposed to slinging lead.

In fact, the former Democratic Party chairman is one of Virginia's newest gun owners, the proud papa of a sleek Beretta over and under shotgun, the standard of excellence at the area's skeet ranges.

Secrets first heard of his purchase over the weekend from shoppers at Dick's Sporting Goods in Bailey's Crossroads who saw the likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee shouldering one of the pricy long guns.

His campaign confirmed the purchase and even gave us a reason. "It was a Beretta shotgun so he and his son, who is currently a second-year midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, can go skeet shooting together," said campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin.

He didn't identify the model or gauge, but Dick's sells the over-and-under Beretta Silver Pigeon for $1,899.99.

Whether he meant to or not, McAuliffe's purchase at Dick's made a statement related to the current push for national gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. That's because Dick's was among the first stores to suspend the sales of assault-style rifles from its inventory like the Bushmaster used in Newtown, Conn.

After the shootings, McAuliffe issued a statement calling for a new assault-weapons ban, a rule to curb gun purchases by Virginians to one gun a month and a closer look at the mental health of gun buyers. "First, we must prioritize the diagnosis, treatment, and awareness of mental health issues by recognizing that individuals with psychological and emotional disorders need our help instead of stigmatization. Second, I've said in the past and I continue to believe that there are mainstream restrictions on dangerous weapons that we can agree on including: renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, passage of bipartisan legislation to strengthen background checks, and re-implementation of Virginia's one-gun-a-month rule," he said.

None of his gun control suggestions would have come into play in his purchase of the Beretta, which users have to physically load shells into both barrels.

Shooting and hunting can often be a good image-boost for political candidates. Former President Clinton got applause for duck hunting. But in 2004, Sen. John Kerry flopped in a last-minute goose hunting photo-op.

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