- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will use executive authority to broaden mental-health reporting requirements for gun buyers and hopes the legislature will permanently address the issue, a spokesman said yesterday.

“It’s widely anticipated that this would be an immediate and short-term fix since we have a part-time legislature,” Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall said. “We would expect there would be actual legislation next year that would more formally correct this disconnect in state law.”

Mr. Kaine hopes to close a reporting requirement loophole and include people like gunman Seung-hui Cho in an FBI database used to run background checks on would-be gun buyers. Cho, who was deemed mentally ill by a judge and ordered to undergo outpatient treatment, was still able to legally purchase the weapons he used to kill 32 persons April 16 on the Virginia Tech campus.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, said this week that he was considering an executive order that would give gun dealers more details about the mental health of would-be gun buyers.

Mr. Hall said yesterday that the governor is considering other options that include an explicit instruction to Virginia State Police about mental-health reporting requirements and a change in the forms filled out by court officials to designate a person dangerous and mentally ill.

“We cannot imagine any reasonable person believing that an individual who has been determined by a judge to be dangerous should have the ability to purchase a deadly weapon,” Mr. Hall said.

The moves are just one way in which area lawmakers are considering stiffening gun regulations in the wake of the massacre at Virginia Tech.

In Maryland, state Sen. Michael G. Lenett, Montgomery County Democrat, said he plans to introduce a bill banning assault weapons next year.

State lawmakers have voted down proposed assault-weapons bans in the past five sessions, but supporters say they see an added push for gun control.

“It highlighted the need for clarification for mental illness’s bearing on firearms issues,” said former Delegate Neil F. Quinter, a Howard Democrat who sponsored the assault-weapons ban from 2003 to 2006. “It will depend heavily on whether the governor decides to take up the natural leadership on the issue.”

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, said the governor is still weighing his options.

“We, of course, will look at the laws on the books and determine how best to move forward,” he said

Mr. Lenett also is considering measures that would mandate fingerprinting of gun buyers and prohibit access to high-capacity ammunition on the Internet without a background check.

Cho purchased ammunition for one of the two guns he used from an Idaho-based vendor on EBay, an online auction site.

“While no law can guarantee such a horrible tragedy can be prevented, the Virginia Tech massacre underscores the need to address the gaping holes in our gun-control laws that contribute to the rising problem of gun violence in Maryland and across the country,” Mr. Lenett said.

Mr. Kaine’s proposed move stems from a disconnect between federal law — which prohibits selling a gun to a mentally ill person — and state standards for sharing information with federal authorities about mentally ill patients.

Cho had been declared mentally ill and a danger to himself by a special judge in 2005, but because the gunman had not been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, state officials never entered his name into the FBI database.

“The designation of dangerousness appears to be what the feds had in mind for the criteria for being included in the database,” Mr. Hall said. “The way we were practicing that in Virginia, the reporting was based on the setting of the treatment after the designation.”

Only 22 states, including Maryland and Virginia but not the District, report some mental-health records to the FBI, the agency said. Virginia had reported 80,000 mental-health records to the system as of April 1, more than any other state.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide