Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder, currently polling second in the primary, is campaigning as an ‘absolute’ Trump supporter and has snagged high-profile endorsements from Ken Cuccinelli, Mark Morgan, Sarah Sanders and Kay Coles James. One of his top campaign issues is protecting the Second Amendment, reassuring Virginians that he ‘believes that the Second Amendment is NOT optional’.
But according to meeting minutes from Snyder’s time serving on the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors, he once voted for a weapons ban on campus. Then he tried to cover it up.
Snyder was appointed to the W&M Board of Visitors (BOV) in 2011 by Republican governor Bob McDonnell. In September and December of that year, the BOV voted twice to approve a regulation to ban all employees and visitors from carrying weapons on campus, even if they have a valid concealed carry permit.
Minutes from these meetings list Snyder as present and do not indicate that he opposed the ban.
Nearly two years later and shortly before he announced his bid for lieutenant governor, Snyder wrote a letter to the BOV Rector, Jeffrey Trammel, expressing regret that he had not done more to stop the weapons ban.
‘I regret not registering stronger objection at the time this policy was taken up with limited discussion by the Board of Visitors, and I wish to register my objection through this letter,’ Snyder wrote, according to a copy of the letter provided to The Spectator by Snyder’s campaign. ‘I request that the Board revisit this policy in an appropriately open and deliberative way, and hold a recorded vote on this matter at our next scheduled meeting in April.’
When asked about the weapons ban by Jeannemarie Davis, a fellow Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, during a primary debate, Snyder claimed that he ‘adamantly rejected’ any infringements on Second Amendment rights during his time on the BOV.
‘You’ve repeatedly stated that you support the Second Amendment and do not support any restrictions on gun owners, yet you voted at the Board of Visitors meeting on December 9, 2011 to expressly prohibit any person…from carrying a firearm onto any portion of the William and Mary campus,’ Davis said during the debate. ‘How do you reconcile these actions with your campaign rhetoric?’
Snyder replied, ‘First and foremost, that is a misfire. That is a misfire because I have adamantly rejected any encroachment on the Second Amendment at William and Mary and the Rector of the College knows it.’ He went on to attack Davis’s record on the Second Amendment.
Davis told The Spectator that she asked Snyder about the issue again in a second debate and he changed his response. Instead of asserting he ‘adamantly rejected’ any such ban, he claimed he was not present for the vote at all.
‘Pete said in the Ninth District convention — because he had been asked the question before and he had time to think about it — “I was out of the room”,’ Davis recalled. ‘Bottom line is he’s sending out mail talking about what a big pro-Second Amendment guy is. And he had two opportunities to vote on the Second Amendment and he voted against the Second Amendment both times.’
When reached for comment by The Spectator, Snyder’s campaign again claimed that he was not present for the vote to ban weapons on campus, stating that he left early due to a ‘family emergency’ involving his mother’s health. This excuse, however, does not account for the fact that the board voted on the regulation twice. It’s also contradicted by the board’s minutes from each meeting.
The BOV conducts roll call during votes to certify closed sessions, which happen regularly throughout meetings. On both September 23, 2011 and December 9, 2011, when the BOV voted on the weapons ban, Snyder is counted as present for each roll-call vote. John Littel, the current W&M rector and a former BOV secretary, confirmed that it would be marked in the minutes if a board member had left early from a session:
‘If we had a vote for coming out of closed session or going into closed session, that’s a roll call vote. So we would call the person’s names. If they weren’t there it would be noted,’ John Littel told The Spectator.
When Snyder and his campaign are not claiming that he was absent for either the September or December vote, they are insisting that he would have never voted for such a regulation.
‘Pete opposes such policies/regs and he did back then, so I would have expected him to oppose such a policy proposal for any board he was on and present for,’ Ken Cuccinelli, a co-chair of Snyder’s campaign, said in an emailed statement. ‘Critically, he’s going to be the next governor, and this is an issue he is sensitized to, so it will factor into his review of candidates for the Boards of Visitors.’
But minutes from both meetings indicate that the regulation passed through unanimous voice vote. A spokesperson for W&M confirmed to The Spectator that any opposition during a voice vote would’ve been recorded in the minutes.
‘If a board member is present and votes “no” then that “no” vote is recorded in the minutes. That has always been the case,’ the spokesperson explained.
If Snyder were as much of a Second Amendment absolutist as he claims to be, you would expect him to raise strenuous public objections to W&M’s attempts to ban weapons on campus. Instead, the meeting minutes indicate Snyder was present and silent during these votes.
Jeffrey Trammel, the college rector at the time, said he remembered Snyder expressing to him privately that he opposed the weapons ban, but that the regulation was ‘not controversial’ when brought in front of the board.
‘I remember Pete saying kidding to me … “you know, I’m opposed to that ban on concealed weapons on campus,” as he would occasionally when there were things that he disagreed with. So I do have a recollection of that. I remember standing in the hallway when he said that to me,’ Trammel said.
The Spectator learned that Snyder later lobbied the governor’s office to try to stop or modify the weapons ban after it passed the W&M BOV. Was Snyder trying to get McDonnell to play clean up after he failed to oppose the policy himself?
It would be one thing if Snyder simply acknowledged that he made a mistake 10 years ago when he voted for the ban. Instead, he has over the years come up with various stories to hide the truth and absolve himself of any responsibility for the vote.
‘The fact is [Snyder] sat on his hands and let [the weapons ban] go by twice,’ Davis said. ‘This guy just can’t tell the truth.’