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Thread: Gun law battle gets personal in Virginia. The Washington Times Metro

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    RICHMOND (AP) — As he sat in the hospital, watching blood ooze from the gunshot wounds in his son Colin's body, Andrew Goddard began a negotiation with a higher power.

    Let my son live, he proposed, and I will do what I can to spare another parent this torture.

    Colin did survive, despite the four bullets fired into him by Virginia Tech gunman Seung-hui Cho. Now his father is making good on the deal: He and other relatives of those killed or injured in Blacksburg will lobby for changes to the state's gun and mental health laws during the General Assembly session that begins Jan. 9.

    Together, they are poised to become a powerful lobbying force — one with the potential to effect change in areas that traditionally have gained little traction with Virginia legislators.

    "They stand in the position unlike no one else that will be in this whole process," said Sen. Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli II, Fairfax Republican. "And they will get listened to."

    Since the April 16 shootings, in which Cho killed 32 others and himself after a long history of mental illness, several of the victims' families have demanded stricter oversight of gun purchases and a revamping of the state's mental health system. Nine survivors and 16 families of those killed signed a letter of support to Congress urging lawmakers to strengthen the background check system for weapons purchases.

    Cho was able to pass a background check and buy two guns despite having been deemed mentally defective by a Virginia court. In response, Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, signed an executive order requiring that anyone ordered by a court to get mental health treatment be added to a state police database of people barred from buying guns.

    But people can still buy guns through other means that require no background check in Virginia, such as gun shows — vast firearms bazaars where scores of people sell or swap firearms.

    Efforts to close the so-called gun show loophole have failed repeatedly, and even Mr. Goddard — the most outspoken family member on the issue — concedes that getting lawmakers to close it this year will be a struggle.

    "It's a tremendous uphill battle," he said. "I have no doubt that we're going to suffer severe defeats."

    But Mr. Goddard is ready to fight. He is organizing an advocacy day next month at the Capitol, which will include a "lie-in," during which participants will lie on the ground to represent the shooting victims. His son plans to make a speech. Other families have begun speaking out during pre-session legislative meetings.

    n n n

    Despite such powerful measures, persuading Virginia lawmakers to impose any restrictions on gun ownership is nearly impossible, said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg.

    "The gun control issue is political dynamite in Virginia," Mr. Farnsworth said. "There's no question that they are as effective a group of lobbyists as one can imagine for gun control issues, but there are a lot of people with a lot of money and a lot of interest in politicians who are pro-gun in Virginia — and that hasn't changed after the Virginia Tech tragedy."

    Delegate James M. Scott, Fairfax County Democrat who favors closing the gun show loophole, is less certain.

    "In any case of trying to change opinions, you really have to be well-organized, focused and be sure that you have all the facts," he said. "And my guess is they will be all of those."

    The families have another factor on their side: emotional impact.

    "A lot of what they bring to the table is a discomfort factor," Mr. Cuccinelli said. "You don't want to be ruling against families that are in this kind of pain."

    Such discomfort was evident at a recent meeting of lawmakers and reporters who cover the Capitol, during which several victims' loved ones challenged a legislator who opposes closing the loophole.

    Joseph Samaha of Fairfax County, whose daughter Reema J. Samaha was killed in the shootings, appeared frustrated with Sen.-elect Robert Hurt, Chatham Republican, at one point asking him, "What is the fear of someone having to go through the background check?"

    Mr. Hurt chose his words carefully, responding that closing the loophole would infringe on a person's right to possess a firearm.

    "Is it a nuisance factor?" Mr. Samaha challenged.

    Mr. Hurt paused, then said: "More important, it's a liberty factor."

    The families will encounter many other lawmakers who share Mr. Hurt's views. Despite that, they are determined to forge ahead.

    "I am compelled to work on these issues so that no one has to suffer the pain and loss that those parents and families have gone through and continue to go through," said Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was shot and survived. "If the General Assembly had worked harder and done what was right to protect innocent people, we might not have lost as many lives as we have in the last number of years in all types of gun violence."

    Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, acknowledges the families' pain, but plans to push lawmakers to protect gun owners' rights as usual this year.

    "They're certainly going to draw sympathy; they have my sympathy, to have lost someone the way they did," he said of the families. "On the other hand, we cannot be ruled as a nation by emotion. We have to look at this thing logically, and to try to control gun shows from what happened makes no sense. Cho did not get his guns from a gun show."

    n n n

    The family members pushing to close the loophole are quick to point out that they are not anti-gun; several are gun owners themselves, including Mike White, whose daughter Nicole was killed.

    "We're not looking to take rights away from the individual that wants to buy a gun and act responsibly," Mr. White said. "We're looking to keep the criminal from easily purchasing the gun."

    Greg and Linda Gwaltney, whose son Matthew was killed, are also gun owners and plan to push lawmakers to close the loophole. They also hope lawmakers will reform Virginia's mental health system, which both say needs a complete overhaul.

    Mr. Kaine has proposed more funding and other changes to the state's mental health system that closely mirror the recommendations of an independent panel that investigated the shootings.

    A lack of understanding of the system's complexities and pitfalls has kept lawmakers from acting on it until now, said Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton, an authority on mental health legislation. But the shootings fast-tracked the issue to the top of the agenda, he said.

    "If no Virginia Tech parent or victim even contacted us or came forward, I think you're going to see some significant changes," said Mr. Hamilton, Newport News Republican.

    The families are not uniform in their beliefs, however. Holly Sherman, whose daughter Leslie was killed in the shootings, understands that it may be healing for some of the families to lobby for changes to gun and mental health laws. But to her, the effort is futile.

    Mrs. Sherman hopes others will focus on what she feels are common-sense measures: running public service announcements to educate parents about potentially dangerous behavior in their children, ensuring schools properly handle troubled students and holding surprise emergency drills at schools.

    "There are some very inexpensive and easy measures to take immediately that can have as much or more positive effect than new laws for lawyers to fight and/or give people more fodder for lawsuits," she wrote in an e-mail.

    But for Mr. Goddard, who watched his son fight for his life, changing the laws is essential.

    "If I can save one family from that or one family from standing by a gravestone, then it's worth it," he said.



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    When's this lie-in going to be? I want to bring one of those "this is what happens when you can't defend yourself" signs.
    Why open carry? Because 1911 > 911.

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    Why, OH WHY, does this myth about being able to buy guns at a gun show without a background check keep getting spouted?

    The only time you don't need a bg check at a gun show is if you are buying a Long Gun from a Private Seller.

    Any other time, it's just like buying a gun at a gun store!

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    lildobe wrote:
    Why, OH WHY, does this myth about being able to buy guns at a gun show without a background check keep getting spouted?

    The only time you don't need a bg check at a gun show is if you are buying a Long Gun from a Private Seller.

    Any other time, it's just like buying a gun at a gun store!
    I am not familiar with the loophole at all they are refering to but can't you buy a handgun from a private seller without a background check? That is as long as the buyer meets the regulationsas far as you know. I have never bought one at a gun show from a privateseller so I don't know.

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    Founder's Club Member Tess's Avatar
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    lildobe wrote:
    Why, OH WHY, does this myth about being able to buy guns at a gun show without a background check keep getting spouted?

    The only time you don't need a bg check at a gun show is if you are buying a Long Gun from a Private Seller.

    Any other time, it's just like buying a gun at a gun store!
    That may be the case in Pennsylvania; I'm not familiar with buying and selling there.

    Here in Virginia, you're not restricted to long guns if you're buying from a private seller, whether or not at a gun show. That doesn't make it a loophole, any more than there's a "Tess's living room loophole".

    Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. -Albert Einstein

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    Tess wrote:
    That may be the case in Pennsylvania; I'm not familiar with buying and selling there.

    Here in Virginia, you're not restricted to long guns if you're buying from a private seller, whether or not at a gun show. That doesn't make it a loophole, any more than there's a "Tess's living room loophole".

    I thought anytime you transfered a hand gun it had to go therough a FFL.

    I may be mistaken... but that's the way I understood it.

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    lildobe wrote:
    Tess wrote:
    That may be the case in Pennsylvania; I'm not familiar with buying and selling there.

    Here in Virginia, you're not restricted to long guns if you're buying from a private seller, whether or not at a gun show. That doesn't make it a loophole, any more than there's a "Tess's living room loophole".

    I thought anytime you transfered a hand gun it had to go therough a FFL.

    I may be mistaken... but that's the way I understood it.
    Only PA, AFAIK.

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    lildobe wrote:
    I thought anytime you transfered a hand gun it had to go therough a FFL.

    I may be mistaken... but that's the way I understood it.
    Only in PA and 8 other states - otherwise, intra-state transfers to residents of the same state require no FFL or background check.

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    Mike wrote:
    lildobe wrote:
    I thought anytime you transfered a hand gun it had to go therough a FFL.

    I may be mistaken... but that's the way I understood it.
    Only in PA and 8 other states - otherwise, intra-state transfers to residents of the same state require no FFL or background check.
    Ah! That explains things.

    So... Where is it that I need to move?

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    lildobe wrote:
    So... Where is it that I need to move?
    Virginia!

    You just have to learn to like grits and cornbread. Aquiring some sophistication about BBQ won't hurt. Being able to name all of Lee's generals in one breath is a definite plus.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

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    All of who's Generals?

    Then again, considering where I grew up, I really don't see how Virginia is supposed to be so Southern. :quirky
    Why open carry? Because 1911 > 911.

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    AbNo wrote:
    All of who's Generals?
    Ooooo. That hurts.

    Tell you what. Itsnot too late for redemption. Your first assignment is to drive over to New Market and tour the battlefield. Learn what those VMI boys did on May 15, 1864. While you're there you'll come across information about this fellow Lee and what he was doing in the east.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

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    There is a response to this story in today's Washington Times letters to the editor. It's not online yet, I read it in the actual paper today.

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    Citizen wrote:
    AbNo wrote:
    All of who's Generals?
    Ooooo.* That hurts.* *

    Tell you what.* Its*not too late for redemption.* Your first assignment is to drive over to New Market and tour the battlefield.* Learn what those VMI boys did on May 15, 1864.* While you're there you'll come across information about this fellow Lee and what he was doing in the east.
    I'm also not from Virginia. Moved to Virginia Beach in 2005.
    Why open carry? Because 1911 > 911.

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    AbNo wrote:
    When's this lie-in going to be? I want to bring one of those "this is what happens when you can't defend yourself" signs.
    This is one of the key points to push.

    And Philip's point about not making laws based on emotion.

    Acknowledge their pain and loss. And don't bother to argue with the rest except for a quick undermining comment tied to a new question or fact.

    I notice there are "gun owners" who support closing the alleged loophole. As long as we let them frame the argument as pro-gun vs anti-gun, this opening will be there for them to exploit. The arguement needs to be pro-self-defense or pro-liberty.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

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    lildobe wrote:
    Mike wrote:
    lildobe wrote:
    I thought anytime you transfered a hand gun it had to go therough a FFL.

    I may be mistaken... but that's the way I understood it.
    Only in PA and 8 other states - otherwise, intra-state transfers to residents of the same state require no FFL or background check.
    Ah! That explains things.

    So... Where is it that I need to move?
    Bah, try buying more than one handgun per month in PA. Now try it in Virginia.

    Or try CCing a handgun (with a LTCF) into a school or bar in Virginia.

    C'mon, there's a reason the Brady campaign gives PA a letter grade of "D+", although it used to be an "F".

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    Citizen wrote:
    I notice there are "gun owners" who support closing the alleged loophole. As long as we let them frame the argument as pro-gun vs anti-gun, this opening will be there for them to exploit. The arguement needs to be pro-self-defense or pro-liberty.
    Thank you for the mention, your awareness, of framing. Much of our current straits are due to 'them' framing us to their advantage - very much to their economic advantage, 'sell more copy'.

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    Mike wrote:
    lildobe wrote:
    I thought anytime you transfered a hand gun it had to go therough a FFL.

    I may be mistaken... but that's the way I understood it.
    Only in PA and 8 other states - otherwise, intra-state transfers to residents of the same state require no FFL or background check.
    Any law that would require me to ask for permission to sell my private property to another would clearly be unconstitutional. IMO If I have to ask for permission to sell my private property then I don't own the property.

    A license or permit is permission to do that which is illegal.

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