- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

RICHMOND — State lawmakers have introduced a bill tightening regulations on weapons sales at gun shows and are scheduled to debate a proposal that forbids people with concealed-weapons permits from bringing their guns into restaurants that serve alcohol.

The Senate Finance Committee this week will debate the bill that requires buyers at gun shows to pass a criminal background check. Virginia law now requires background checks only for people who buy guns from licensed dealers and from stores.

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The bill passed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee by an 8-7 vote about two weeks ago with an amendment to exempt buyers who already had passed the background check. The bill could reach the Senate floor in the next two weeks if it is passed by the Finance Committee.

The bill was written by state Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, Chesterfield County Democrat, to close what is called the “gun show loophole.” A similar bill died last year in the Finance Committee.

Advocates for tougher gun regulations see the bill’s early success this year as a victory.

“A gun show is an ideal place for criminals or terrorists to go and get guns because they know they can do it with no record of the transaction,” said Jim Sollo, president of Virginians Against Handgun Violence.

He pointed to the Columbine High School massacre as an example of the problem, saying the weapons were bought from an unlicensed dealer at a gun show and that Colorado has since passed a law requiring background checks to prevent such incidents.

“It’s simply a cash-and-carry market,” Mr. Sollo said. “Criminal elements are using these gun shows to purchase guns and they can use those guns in crimes.” If the bill passes, unlicensed sellers at gun shows would be required to make a phone call to the state police to instantly get the buyer’s background.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the gun rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League, says the bill unfairly targets gun owners and called it “outrageous.” “The ability for individuals to sell a gun privately to another individual without telling the government is not a loophole,” he said. He called the bill “a solution in search of a problem.” Mr. Van Cleave is also lobbying to repeal the ban that forbids those who have a concealed weapons permit from bringing their weapon into restaurants that serve alcohol.

The bill sponsor is Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, Fairfax County Republican.

“Permit holders are the most law-abiding citizens in the commonwealth,” Mr. Van Cleave said.

The bill, which is expected to be heard this week by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, was defeated last year in the House by a 58-41 vote. It is expected to meet heavy opposition from gun control advocates and from the restaurant industry lobby. It is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Wednesday.

State Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax County Democrat, is sponsoring a competing bill that prohibits the carrying of a loaded gun into a restaurant that has a liquor license. The bill has support from Virginians Against Handgun Violence and is awaiting a Courts of Justice hearing.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League is also battling the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority over a regulation banning guns on its property — including sections of the heavily traveled Dulles Access Road, Routes 28 and 606, and the Metrorail station at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The group claims the agency is overstepping state and federal laws and concealing the “obscure and unknown” ban, essentially “trapping” law-abiding gun owners traveling across authority property.

The authority says the ban is necessary for security.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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