Thursday, May 31, 2007

RICHMOND — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he will await the findings of a panel studying the Virginia Tech shootings before considering whether to allow people with gun permits to carry firearms on college campuses.

In response to a caller to his monthly question-and-answer radio show on WRVA Radio (AM 1140) in Richmond and the Virginia News Network, Mr. Kaine voiced little enthusiasm for the idea.

Whether to allow people who hold concealed-carry permits to bring weapons onto campuses is left to presidents of state-supported colleges and universities. Mr. Kaine said he does not wish to meddle in those matters.

“The question about on-campus gun policies — some say we’ve got to do more gun laws and some say the right way to provide security to campuses is let students carry concealed weapons — I’m going to wait and see if the panel makes a recommendation about that,” Mr. Kaine said.

“I’ve been asked my opinion about it and what I’ve said is this: the college presidents and campus police chiefs that I’ve talked to have generally felt like allowing more students to carry concealed weapons would be a bad thing rather than a good thing. I’m not in the business of campus security. I’m not an expert at that,” he said.

Legislation that would force universities to allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns on campus has consistently drawn opposition from college administrators, Mr. Kaine noted.

The eight-member review panel headed by former state police Superintendent W. Gerald Massengill has met twice, has at least two more meetings scheduled and is due to report its findings to Mr. Kaine by August.

After a mentally ill student killed himself after fatally shooting 32 students and faculty on April 16, gun rights advocates have argued that allowing people to carry concealed weapons could have reduced the carnage.

Seung-hui Cho, armed with two handguns, fired 174 times in nine minutes on the second floor of Norris Hall on the Blacksburg, Va., campus. Cho shot himself as police broke through exits that he had chained and locked, but he had 203 rounds of live ammunition left and was prepared to keep on killing, police told the panel.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he was glad Mr. Kaine didn’t flatly reject the prospect of guns on campus.

“We’re glad there has been no rush to judgment to block out what we think is the ultimate solution to this,” he said.

Within hours of the shootings, Mr. Van Cleave’s organization called for allowing concealed weapons on campus, arguing Cho’s rampage might have been curtailed had he encountered armed resistance.

“We’ll never know for sure, but there was an excellent chance of stopping it,” he said yesterday.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence contends that having armed students at Norris Hall probably would have only made matters worse by putting unarmed students in a crossfire with Cho.

“You can run the same scenarios 150,000 times, and maybe a few of those times you end up with fewer casualties,” said Peter Hamm, the Washington-based gun-control group’s spokesman.

“By all means, we can talk about more guns in classrooms as an option, but by the same token, we think it’s a bad idea,” he said.

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