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Virginia state Senate candidate opposes gun laws, thinks profanity should be a crime

Republican Danny Diggs, a former sheriff, said in 2019 that gun safety laws were unconstitutional and unenforceable.

By Josh Israel - October 17, 2023
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Governor Glenn Youngkin with candidate Danny Diggs in September, 2023.
Governor Glenn Youngkin with candidate Danny Diggs in September, 2023. (Glenn Youngkin / Flickr)

Republican Danny Diggs is currently running for a seat in the Virginia Senate on his strong opposition to gun violence legislation, which he believes violates the U.S. Constitution. But during his tenure as the sheriff for York County and the city of Poquoson, he fought to keep a law on the books that criminalized public cursing.

Diggs is challenging Democratic Sen. Monty Mason for the competitive 24th Senate District seat in this year’s race, which ends on Nov. 7. The winner of the Hampton Roads-area seat could determine which party controls the 40-seat Senate for the next four years. If Republicans win back control of the Senate and hold their majority in the House of Delegates, they will likely roll back gun safety laws, reproductive rights, clean energy targets, civil rights protections, and the right to vote.

On his campaign site, Diggs notes his strong opposition to gun violence legislation: “I have proudly defended the Constitution, especially the Second Amendment. I oppose efforts to criminalize law abiding gun owners. In the General Assembly I will work to stiffen penalties for those who use guns to commit crime while supporting our constitutional right to bear arms.”

In 2010, Diggs supported the repeal of a York County ordinance that had banned the discharge of firearms in some residential neighborhoods. According to coverage in the Newport News-based Daily Press, he called the law unnecessary, unenforced, and claimed it provided nothing but “extra feel good.”

In 2020 and 2021, the Democratic-led Legislature approved enhanced background checks for gun purchases, a limit on the number of firearms an individual can purchase each month, a ban on guns in preschools and daycare facilities, and a red flag law to allow judges to temporarily disarm those deemed an immediate threat to themselves or others.

Diggs opposed those laws and suggested he might not enforce them. In December 2019, as Republican-led local governments considered whether to refuse to enforce gun laws, he told the Daily Press that he backed such a refusal. He told the paper that proposed gun safety laws were “an outright assault” on the Constitution and “way beyond any kind of reasonable attempt at gun control.”

He told the Norfolk-based Virginian Pilot that it would be “very difficult to enforce” such laws because he thought they were not constitutional.

A Diggs campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions from the American Independent Foundation.

While Diggs takes an absolutist view of the Second Amendment, he has taken a much more limited view of the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

In May 2011, a Daily Press editorial mocked Diggs for urging people to call 911 if they heard foul language at Yorktown’s Riverwalk Landing. “Sometimes when you over-analyze a problem, or it has been festering for a while, you come up with the most convoluted and least apt solution,” the editorial board said of his suggestion.

In 2020, the Democratic-led Virginia General Assembly passed bipartisan legislation to repeal a 1792 ban on “profane swearing” in the commonwealth, with more than three-quarters of lawmakers in each chamber in favor.

That November, Diggs complained to the Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, “They’ve taken away a tool that we could use to diffuse a volatile situation.”

As the American Independent Foundation reported on Oct. 9, Diggs recently released a campaign ad in which supporter Heather Clements accuses Mason of being “soft on crime.” The Newport News mother featured in the spot and her husband attended the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to videos her husband posted on Facebook. Clements posted in comments that she was there “to protest because dems cheated” and said, “I want to go down with a fight.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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