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Senator reverses vote, kills gun-show measure

Date published: 1/24/2013


Associated Press


--Legislation to close Virginia's so-called "gun show loophole" was sent to its annual death Wednesday after a state senator who assumed a key role in this year's debate pledged to vigorously pursue a compromise between gun control advocates and opponents before the 2014 legislative session.

The Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-7 to kill the legislation, which has suffered the same fate several years in a row. Several other gun control proposals--including bills mandating universal background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines--also have been rejected during the first two weeks of the 46-day legislative session.

In Virginia, only licensed gun dealers are required to run criminal background checks on buyers at gun shows. The courts committee last week endorsed a bill to allow only licensed dealers to operate as vendors at gun shows, but allow private sellers to place their wares on consignment with those dealers--thus subjecting all customers to the background checks.

But Republican Sen. Bill Stanley of Franklin County, who voted for the bill, had second thoughts and persuaded the committee to reconsider. He said Wednesday that he had been working with activists on both sides of the issue and was close to reaching a compromise, but there were too many details to work out to get it done in this session. He offered the motion to kill Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh's bill, but vowed to continue to work for a solution.

"I commit to you, Sen. Marsh, there will be legislation next session," Stanley said. "I'm not doing this to kill your bill for the sake of killing your bill."

Marsh, D-Richmond, and his allies on the committee opposed shelving the bill.

"It's untenable, it's unconscionable and delaying another year makes absolutely no sense at all," said Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax.

The debate comes more than a month after a gunman fatally shot his mother at their home and then killed 26 children and adults at a Connecticut school before killing himself.

Stanley said the compromise that he and others will be working on in the coming year would require gun show promoters to create a kiosk where buyers could voluntarily submit to a background check to purchase from individuals who want to sell only to customers who are legally entitled to own a gun. Details, including how the kiosk would be staffed, have yet to be determined.

Gun control advocate Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was wounded in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, said she believes Stanley is sincere about wanting to find a solution agreeable to both sides.

She said citizens, including gun owners, are demanding background checks.

"That's clearly the direction the country is heading," she said.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he is open to the concept being discussed as long as it is workable.

"We think options are good as long as they are voluntary," he said.