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Sen. John Edwards wanted only to give gun show dealers and buyers an option for background checks.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Virginia Sen. John Edwards last week proposed a gun show loophole compromise. His weak-kneed bill was both too much and too little for lawmakers.
Frustration on the issue is easily understood. Lawmakers again this year scuttled bills to require all firearms purchasers at gun shows to undergo background checks. Buyers in federally licensed gun shops are so scrutinized, as are those who buy guns from a dealer at a gun show. But the law lets unlicensed sellers at shows hawk firearms to anyone without a screening.
Closing the loophole would neither solve all of the nation’s gun problems nor prevent all of the tens of thousands of shooting deaths that occur annually. Nevertheless, it is a common sense measure that would do considerable good, shutting one easy avenue that felons and people with mental health issues exploit to acquire guns.
Edwards, a Democrat from Roanoke, proposed allowing optional checks on private sales at gun shows. His tepid bill (SB 1372) failed 11-3 in a Senate committee on Monday.
Currently, Virginia State Police does not conduct background checks at gun shows, so even if the organizer, the private seller and the buyer all wanted one, they could not get it on site. Having a state police officer present would give them the option and might even dissuade some buyers from breaking the law.
That earned the bill opposition from the usual opponents of reform.
Most supporters of reform on the committee also opposed it, arguing that it did not go far enough. Either party involved in a sale could have refused to go through the check. People who know they would not pass it could simply decline. If the seller insisted, they could move on to a more amenable one.
If even so minimal a bill cannot pass, little hope remains that the commonwealth will take sensible steps to better protect residents from gun violence. Certainly not this year. It falls, then, to the federal government to provide genuine solutions.
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