- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2008

RICHMOND | The Virginia State Crime Commission put off a decision on whether to recommend legislation closing the so-called gun show loophole Tuesday, but promised to do so before the General Assembly convenes in January.

Victims and family members of those injured or killed by a student gunman last year at Virginia Tech pleaded with the commission to support closing the loophole, in which private sellers at gun shows are not required to do the background checks on buyers that commercial dealers must provide.

Others, most carrying weapons, asked members not to confuse the issue with the tragedy at Virginia Tech because gunman Seung-Hui Cho did not buy the two firearms he used to kill 32 others and himself from a gun show.

Some victims’ family members accused commission Chairman Delegate David Albo, Fairfax Republican, of putting off a vote to protect fellow Republicans on the commission who oppose further checks.

Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle of Virginia Beach and Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County, both Republicans, tried to kill a vote on a technicality, saying that the commission’s charge was to study federal and state laws concerning gun shows and not to recommend changes to Virginia’s law.

Mr. Albo agreed, but said the commission usually studies issues then recommends legislation. He said he simply wanted everyone involved to be aware before a vote was taken.

“This is not an effort for me to wimp out on a vote. I like record checks at gun shows,” Mr. Albo said. “My ruling is one of procedure that I don’t think that the General Assembly or committees or the Crime Commission should be taking action on things that the public wasn’t properly” notified about.

The issue was listed among eight others under the heading “Possible Legislation” on the commission’s agenda.

Mr. Albo said he would call another meeting in January to vote on the issue but would not take comment from any of the 15 individuals who spoke Tuesday.

“I was slightly disappointed, but I know that’s what politics is,” Omar Samaha, 25, whose sister Reema was killed at Virginia Tech, said afterward. “They’re trying to keep the guys who are going to give a no-vote out of the hot water right now, but that’s the way it works. But we’ll be back. We’re going to keep doing this until it gets changed.”

Proposals to require background checks of private buyers at gun shows have been made for the past five years, but the effort gained fury last winter when the Virginia Tech families got behind it.

Despite their support, legislators killed the bill and sent it to the Crime Commission for study.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, reminded the commission that even if the checks were required, it would not have prevented the Virginia Tech shootings. Cho purchased a Glock 9 mm at a Virginia gun store and a .22-caliber pistol over the Internet.

“Evil is just a tough thing to legislate out of the world,” he said. “I wish you could do it, but you can’t.”

But the families said if Cho hadn’t been able to buy his weapons he likely would have turned to a private dealer at a gun show.

“The next one is coming. Are any of you really willing to take the chance that the next mass killing might be by a person that gets his gun from a gun show just because he knew he could avoid a background check?” Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was shot but survived, asked legislators.

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