The gun collector loophole.
New York Times Editorial
Loopholes and More Loopholes
Published: May 2, 2007
Virginia claims that it has closed a loophole that put guns in the hands of a deranged student who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. But thereâ€™s always the next loophole to worry about when it comes to the lack of gun control in this country.
In this case, Gov. Tim Kaine issued an executive order on Monday that would theoretically have barred Seung-Hui Cho from buying the weapons for his campus massacre. Months before, Mr. Cho had been forced by a judge to undergo psychological treatment. But because his care was as an outpatient, Mr. Cho was not on the federal list of people who are barred from buying guns for reasons of mental illness. The governorâ€™s order ends the outpatient-inpatient distinction, but it hardly solves the basic problem of supremely porous laws that enable tens of thousands of handgun deaths year after year.
The fact is that Mr. Cho, or any Virginian denied under the mental illness rule, could have easily satisfied his needs by turning to one of the legions of private â€ścollectorsâ€ť who sell their wares at weekend gun shows without any legal requirement to submit buyersâ€™ names for background checks. Itâ€™s that easy and that hypocritical. The gun lobby, with its generous campaign contributions, operates as a powerful Loopholes â€śRâ€ť Us, and few politicians of either party have the courage to stand up to it.
In Washington, the Democratic Congress has joined the administration in silent retreat. One hearing after Virginia Tech carefully focused on the need for mental health counselors on campus â€” certainly not saner gun controls. Loopholed or not, the federal law cited in the Virginia tragedy is merely voluntary, and 28 statehouses, steeped in gun lobby politics, have firmly declined to participate.
The strongest remedy Congress dares to risk in this session would try to coax cooperation from states with cash incentives. The country would be better off if politicians worried less about the gun lobbyâ€™s cash and more about Americansâ€™ safety.