FACT CHECK: Did The NRA Support Mark Warner As Governor?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner claimed Sunday that he had the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA) during his time as governor of Virginia.

Verdict: True

The NRA once called Warner a “valuable ally for gun owners and sportsmen” for signing into law a series of pro-gun measures in the mid-2000s. Warner’s views on gun control have shifted in recent years, leading the NRA to withdraw its support.

Fact Check:

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, that left 10 dead, Warner appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss gun control. To bolster his credibility as a moderate on the issue, he claimed that the NRA supported him when he served as governor of Virginia.

“I think anyone that says you can address this issue without also dealing with reasonable and logical restraints on gun ownership – and I say that as somebody who was – when I was governor, I was supported by the NRA,” said Warner.

Warner has been a proponent of gun control for years. Most recently, he supported the Fix NICS Act and opposed a Republican proposal to expand concealed carry nationally. He expressed a willingness to vote for an assault weapons ban in March.

“I had always been in favor of universal background checks,” Warner said on CBS. “But I think it’s time for us to have a legitimate debate about restrictions on gun magazines and assault weapons.”

Warner hasn’t always been so vocal about gun control. He has frequently been described as a moderate on the issue and has even been called a “pro-gun Democrat.”

That reputation comes largely from his time as governor. When Warner campaigned for the governorship in 2001, he courted rural voters.

“Warner spoke out for gun rights and found support from sportsmen in rural areas,” writes The Associated Press. “That kept the National Rifle Association on the sidelines and allowed Warner to win votes normally denied Democrats.”

During his term in office, which lasted from 2002 to 2006, he never vetoed a pro-gun bill. He signed into law several measures in 2005 that allowed concealed carry in school parking lots, exempted certain gun ranges from noise standards and amended reporting requirements for gun show promoters.

This prompted full-throated support from the NRA. The organization sent out a press release encouraging members to contact “pro-gun Governor Warner” to “thank him for his strong support for the Second Amendment.” He received an “A” rating from the NRA for his 2008 Senate campaign.

Warner says his views began to change in 2012 after a gunman killed 20 first-graders and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. “I believe every American has Second Amendment rights, the ability to hunt is part of our culture,” Warner told a CBS affiliate. “But, you know, enough is enough. I think most of us realize that there are ways to get to rational gun control.”

A few days after the massacre, Warner told Mother Jones that he’d support an assault weapons ban. The following April, he announced support for a bipartisan background check bill that ultimately failed in the Senate.

The NRA lowered his grade to a “C” and spent $205,000 campaigning against him during his 2014 Senate re-election bid.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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