More Restrictions Urged On Gun-Show Purchases
Transportation Deal Also Seems Imminent
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; Page B08
RICHMOND, Jan. 15 -- Proponents of tougher state laws governing the sale of firearms, most of them from Northern Virginia, urged the General Assembly on Monday to require criminal background checks of all buyers at gun shows.
The measure would close the so-called gun-show loophole, which allows unlicensed dealers to sell firearms at shows in Virginia without conducting the criminal checks required of licensed dealers. Its purpose, supporters said, is to prevent criminals who are prohibited from possessing guns from obtaining them by shopping anonymously at gun shows.
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"This is not a bill about taking away anyone's Second Amendment rights," said Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax). "What this is about is making sure that upstanding citizens possess firearms and that those who are criminals do not."
Meanwhile, sources said late Monday that Republican lawmakers in the Senate and House of Delegates appeared to have reached an agreement on a wide-ranging transportation deal and could unveil it as early as Tuesday morning.
The GOP leaders have been meeting for weeks in hopes of ending a year-long stalemate over new money for roads and transit. Participants in the negotiations and people familiar with the agreement said it would raise hundreds of millions of dollars for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and more statewide.
In addition, the agreement would grant localities new powers to control growth and sprawl and impose changes at the Virginia Department of Transportation aimed at making the bureaucracy more efficient.
On gun regulations, opinions fall largely along regional lines, with Northern Virginians far readier to regulate gun possession than are those from other parts of the state, most notably rural Virginia.
Members of the Northern Virginia chapter of the Million Mom March lined up alongside dozens of schoolchildren to support the gun-show bill at a news conference Monday, citing rising violent crime and public opinion polls showing that a majority of the public supports stricter regulations.
"We need to close this dangerous loophole," said Kailey Leinz, 11, a sixth-grader at Keene Mill Elementary School in Springfield, "so kids like me won't feel scared -- scared that somebody could just come into our school and start shooting."
Yet the gathering was filled with nearly as many opponents of the bill -- people with "Guns Save Lives" stickers on their shirts who challenged supporters to offer a single statistic linking unlicensed gun-show sales with violent crime.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said that requiring unlicensed sellers to conduct criminal checks constitutes an undue burden on private transactions, not only requiring a $5 fee to conduct the check but also requiring the seller to keep the sales record for 20 years.
Keeping such records also is tantamount to maintaining a gun registry, something that Van Cleave's organization and other gun-rights advocates say is a flagrant violation of the Second Amendment.
"The government doesn't know what gun you have in Virginia," Van Cleave said. "Nor should they."
Although the gun-show bill has failed at least five times in previous years, this is the first time Devolites Davis, a Republican, has been its primary patron.
But she is not likely to get far in Richmond. With Republicans in control of both the House of Delegates and the Senate, lawmakers have been more prone in recent years to lift gun restrictions than to add them. This year, for instance, lawmakers have proposed allowing judges, retired police officers and mail carriers to carry concealed weapons without a permit, and they have proposed repealing a requirement that permit holders be fingerprinted.
Staff writer Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.