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'None of us is perfect': Deeds defends gun control record

Gun violence was among the first issues raised at a candidate forum on Wednesday afternoon, and Del. Sally Hudson used the opportunity to openly question her Democratic primary opponent state Sen. Creigh Deeds’ record on gun control.

“Senator Deeds should share with us some explanations for some of these past votes which have helped contribute to the gun violence that we now experience,” Hudson said, drawing murmurs from the big crowd on Wednesday.

It was not the first time Hudson has challenged her opponent for the Senate District 11 seat on gun control. She has previously referenced Deeds’ opposition to a 2020 bill that would have banned assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines in Virginia.

Speaking with The Daily Progress on Thursday, Deeds maintained that the bill "was written so broadly" that it would have been struck down by the courts.

"That broad definition would include some hunting rifles. It just wasn’t going to work," Deeds said.

The longtime legislator specifically referred to the Supreme Court’s 2008 D.C. v. Heller decision, which ruled that individuals have a right to possess and use a firearm "for traditionally lawful purposes."

"That bill wouldn’t have been upheld in federal court. It just wouldn’t have," he told The Daily Progress. Deeds voted to have the 2020 bill sent to the Democrat-controlled Crime Commission to "fix" the bill, he said.

At Wednesday’s forum, the sitting state senator said his views on gun control have evolved throughout his three decades in Virginia politics.

“Whatever my past has been, none of us is perfect. I wasn’t born with a perfectly formed set of ideas,” Deeds told the crowd. “I always reserve the right to be smarter tomorrow than I am today.”

Hudson cited Deeds’ positions from as far back as the 1990s, pointing to a law signed by then-Gov. Doug Wilder which limited Virginians to one handgun purchase a month. Deeds was one of two Democrats who voted to repeal it in 2012. He voted to reinstate the handgun cap in 2020.

Deeds looked straight ahead as she spoke.

When he spoke, Deeds recalled his long history with firearms: as a child in rural Virginia hunting and as someone who lost his own son to gun violence.

“I grew up on a farm. I was in the woods every afternoon hunting. I grew up in that culture,” he said. “My son died to gun violence."

Deeds’ son killed himself with a firearm in 2013 after severely stabbing his father multiple times.

The senator defended his credentials by referencing an assault weapons bill he passed this year and argued that his views “were good enough to be endorsed by Gabby Giffords, who’s had the same gun violence in her past.”

Giffords is a former Arizona congresswoman who left office in 2012 after sustaining a severe brain injury during an attempted assassination. She has since dedicated herself to reforming the country’s gun laws.

Deeds also mentioned that he was named a Gun Safety Candidate by Moms Demand Action, a gun control advocacy group.

Gun violence was but one of many issues touched on during the substantive, hourlong forum on Wednesday which was hosted by the Senior Statesman of Virginia and attended by so many people that a long line of cars were backed up trying to enter the parking lot. Senior Statesman Board Member Bob Beard told The Daily Progress it was the largest crowd he’s seen attend a forum since the before pandemic.

The gathering of 200-plus people on a Wednesday afternoon is an indication of the intense interest in this local race for state office. Some came to the forum hoping it would help them make a final decision between the two candidates.

“It made it harder,” Chuck St. Clar told The Daily Progress. “I was going to vote for Deeds, and I like Hudson. She’s more articulate, and she clearly has things right on the top of her head.”

“Deeds has done so much and he’s worked so long that you’d hate to see him lose,” St. Clar said, adding that he really values the senator’s experience.

“He’s high up on various committees so that gives him some power to do things too,” he said. “But does that outweigh her intelligence? I don’t know.”

Linda, who declined to provide her last name, said she left the forum less decided than she was before.

“We both agree they should both be in,” she said after discussing the matter with St. Clar.

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve been going back and forth and thought, ‘OK, this forum will settle it. I will know.’ But I don’t,” she told The Daily Progress with a laugh.

“And I’ve only got a few days to decide.”


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