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Edwards Proposes "Gun Show Loophole" Compromise

Sandhya Somashekhar

Last week, bills that would have closed the so-called gun show "loophole" died in committee, in part with the help of Sen. John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke), who on Wednesday voted against advancing the bill to the floor of the Senate.

But today, Edwards -- whose district includes Virginia Tech -- tried to reopen the debate.

During a meeting of the Courts of Justice committee, Edwards tried to persuade his colleagues to consider a compromise he said had the support of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).

Under current law, only licensed dealers at gun shows are required to conduct background checks of their customers. The original effort this year to close that so-called loophole would have required everyone who sells at gun shows, even private citizens, to conduct background checks. The effort was vociferously supported by families of the Virginia Tech killings last year, who said it could prevent similar crimes. But it failed in House and Senate committees, in part because of opposition from gun rights groups.

Edwards -- who was one of nine senators who defeated the bill in committee last week -- proposed an alternative that would have made it voluntary for an unlicensed seller at a gun show to conduct a background check.

"I think this is a middle ground," he told reporters after the committee adjourned. "A lot of people would like to do something. Problem is, no one is trying to find a middle ground."

After a contentious discussion, Democrats and Republicans alike voted against reconsidering their original vote, which sent it to the Virginia Crime Commission for further review.

Edwards said he's not done fighting, and hopes to attach the provision to another bill coming out of the House of Delegates.

By Sandhya Somashekhar  |  January 28, 2008; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2008 , Sandhya Somashekhar , Virginia Tech massacre  
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