- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2009

RICHMOND | A Senate committee passed a bill Monday requiring private sellers at gun shows to perform background checks on buyers, but there is little chance the legislation will become law.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-7 for legislation to close the so-called gun-show “loophole,” where private sellers at the shows are not required to perform the federal checks required of licensed gun dealers.

The legislation is introduced annually, but it has cleared the committee only a couple of times in the past. It has never passed in the full Senate. Even if it does, the measure is all but guaranteed to die in the Republican-controlled House.

Still, victims and the families of those killed or injured by a student gunman at Virginia Tech in 2007 were happy to have cleared the first hurdle.

“It’s not over, but it’s a step forward, and that’s where the hope comes in,” said Joe Samaha, whose daughter, Reema, was killed at Virginia Tech.

The gunman, Seung-hui Cho, did not buy the two guns he used to kill 32 students and faculty members at a gun show, but supporters of the bill claim he likely would have if he had been turned down by other means.

Opponents said it is wrong for the bill’s supporters to continue to invoke the tragedy at Tech in the debate when sales at gun shows played no role in it. They also take issue with the suggestion there’s a loophole, because private sales are unregulated no matter where they take place.

“The implication here is there’s something magic that’s been given to gun shows,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, Bath Democrat, amended the bill to exempt those with concealed-carry permits from the background checks by private sellers and to not require them for antique weapons sold at the shows.

Mr. Van Cleave said even with the changes, he doesn’t think the legislation has a chance of passing.

Republicans, including Sen. Thomas K. Norment, of James City, question supporters such as Public Safety Secretary John Marshall for proof that guns bought from private sellers at gun shows end up being used in crimes. Though they could offer no evidence, Mr. Norment changed his previous vote and supported the bill. He said many Virginians perceive that the registration issue is a problem and that it was time “to deal with it once and for all.”

The committee also passed bills to increase the fees dealers pay for the background checks.

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