- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — The Virginia State Crime Commission will take a limited look at the private sale of guns at shows, which has been criticized by advocates of gun control.

In Virginia, private sellers at gun shows don’t have to run background checks of prospective customers. Critics demanded the so-called “loophole” be closed after the Virginia Tech killings.

Proponents of such sales point out that the Tech gunman did not buy his weapons from a show. Lawmakers in the General Assembly session this year killed legislation designed to address the issue.

Meeting last week, the Crime Commission agreed to study state and federal firearms laws so the Assembly will have a clear understanding in future debates on gun-show law.

However, commission members decided they will not recommend proposed laws because of the political divisiveness of the issue.

Only licensed firearms dealers are now required to conduct criminal-background checks of buyers at gun shows in Virginia.

In September, the Crime Commission may direct staff members to try to obtain statistics on the number of gun-show sales by unlicensed sellers and how many of those firearms wind up being used in crimes.

First, the 13-member commission will hear from the Virginia State Police on whether such data are available. The commission also may decide in September whether to hold a public hearing on the matter.

Col. W. Gerald Massengill, former superintendent of the state police and a member of the Crime Commission, told fellow members: “I feel very strongly about the Second Amendment. … I also feel strongly about public safety.”

Col. Massengill, chairman of the governor’s panel that reviewed last year’s Virginia Tech killings, said he favors more thorough background checks on gun-show purchases.

Delegate Kenneth R. Melvin, Portsmouth Democrat, said further study is a waste of time and money.

“It might as well be the public policy in Virginia that if you’re not a convicted felon, we want you armed to the teeth,” he said.

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