Virginia lawmakers say they will not make major changes to gun ownership in the state, despite calls for reform in response to the Virginia Tech shootings.
“I suspect the different groups who are looking at the Virginia Tech tragedy will come out, but I don’t know how much can be done,” said House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican. “It wasn’t a problem with gun control. It was the problem with a guy with very serious problems.”
Lawmakers also said they likely will permanently close a loophole in Virginia gun laws that allowed Virginia Tech shooter Seung-hui Cho to buy two handguns, despite official records showing a court order indicating he had received mental health counseling.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, issued an executive order last month, with Attorney General Bob McDonnell, a Republican, that temporarily closed the loophole.
“If you are forced to get treatment [for a mental illness] you will probably lose your gun rights,” said House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican.
However, lawmakers face additional pressure to make gun-law changes by the independent panel reviewing the April 16 shooting massacre in which Cho, a 23-year-old Tech senior, killed 32 persons, then himself.
Mr. Kaine and other lawmakers have said the findings will help determine their policy-making decisions on gun control, campus safety and mental health services.
“You need to let enough time to pass to look at this … in an impartial light,” said House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong, Martinsville Democrat.
Delegate David B. Albo said he is open to tightening laws on the sales of firearms at gun shows.
However, Mr. Albo, a Fairfax County Republican, said there is a general misconception that Virginia gun laws are weak.
“The only thing left to do would be to ban gun ownership, and a federal court said that is unconstitutional,” he said. “There are very few things Virginia can do.”
The Tech massacre is just one of several gun-related incidents recently in Virginia.
An aide to Sen. James H. Webb Jr. was caught trying to bring a gun inside a U.S. Capitol building, a newspaper released the names of 135,000 Virginians with concealed-handgun permits, and a Civil War re-enactor who dresses as Gen. Robert E. Lee called New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg “an idiot.”
The incidents highlight the importance of the gun ownership issue in Virginia.
“Virginia is sort of the cradle of our freedom,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League. “It just has a history of understanding what the Constitution is all about. Up North they seem to forget about it.”View Entire Story
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