- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RICHMOND | The state crime commission deadlocked Tuesday on whether to support a bill that would force unlicensed sellers to do background checks on people who buy firearms at gun shows, drawing criticism from the loved ones of those killed at Virginia Tech.

The 6-6 vote by the commission was largely symbolic and will not stop proponents from filing a bill to close the “loophole” in state law that allows private sellers at gun shows to avoid the background checks that commercial dealers are required to perform. However, whatever bill is filed in the 2009 General Assembly, which starts Wednesday, will not get the commission’s approval.

Similar bills have failed for at least the past five years, but supporters vowed to continue fighting for them.

Mike White, whose daughter Nicole died at Virginia Tech, said the indecision Tuesday reminded him of school officials’ decision not to close campus after Seung-hui Cho killed two students in a dormitory on April 16, 2007. Tech officials waited more than two hours to inform students of the shooting, and that e-mail came only minutes before Cho killed 30 others, including Miss White, in a classroom building across campus.

Cho’s Glock 19 handgun was purchased legally at a Roanoke gun shop, according to the state police.

“Indecision is what caused the murder of my child,” he said. “Indecision today is what will cause convicted felons, mentally ill and others to walk into the next gun show and purchase a weapon in order to wreak more harm.”

The tie vote was cast by Delegate Ward L. Armstrong, a Democrat from a pro-gun southern Virginia district.

House Speaker William J. Howell, a Stafford Republican, appointed Mr. Armstrong to the commission to replace former Delegate Brian J. Moran, an Alexandria Democrat in favor of closing the loophole, who resigned to run for governor.

Mr. Armstrong, the House minority leader, said he was upset that he was appointed to the commission only 72 hours before the vote.

Mr. Armstrong also said he was torn between the tragedy at Tech and the views of those in his district, where unemployment is about double the state average and the annual gun show is a huge economic boost.

It was suggested that Mr. Armstrong abstain, but he instead voted against supporting the legislation.

The commission also voted 7-5 to recommend legislation that would require a fee from gun-show promoters so Virginia can pay state police to make sure sellers are properly licensed.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, said the group would fight the fees.

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