VaTech Families Target Albo
Relatives of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre have been among the most vocal proponents of a change to state law that would close the state's so-called gun show "loophole," which permits private gun show vendors to sell to customers without first conducting a background check.
Now, some of those same family members are campaigning against a member of the House of Delegates whom they say betrayed them in that fight: Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax).
Funny thing is, Albo says he agrees with the familes that the law should be changed and even voted that way as chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission. But some of the Tech families believe Albo is paying lip service to his more liberal Northern Virginia constituents while obstructing the families' efforts behind the scenes to appease pro-gun Republicans.
Here's their beef: In January, Albo delayed a vote by the crime commission that would have recommended to the state legislature that the law be changed. The delay allowed Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott), an opponent of the legislation who was running late, to participate in a vote that deadlocked the panel. (More on that meeting here.)
So while Albo voted yes, his actions imply that he wanted the effort to fail, they say. Their suspicions were confirmed, they said, when Albo later told them to "just forget it" after they asked for further assistance.
Their outrage intensified this fall when Albo objected to his opponent, Democrat Greg Werkheiser, featuring Lori Haas in a mailer. By enlisting Haas, whose daughter Emily was injured in the shooting, Albo said Werkheiser was essentially exploiting the Tech tragedy for political gain. But in an open letter to Albo Tuesday, five family members including Haas countered that, "If anyone is guilty of exploiting the tragedy -- a tragedy that all of us live with every day -- it is you."
"Earlier this year, Greg Werkheiser helped Lori Haas share, in her own words, how you treated her and your record on the issue," they wrote. "It is clear to us that despite your pledge to support us, you never intended to follow through. It was all a façade and clearly a political maneuver to obtain more votes this fall. Your recent mailer reinforced our belief when, like a typical politician, you used Lori's words against your opponent."
Albo said he is puzzled by the actions of the family members. "Usually I get people against me when I vote against their bill," he said. "This is a new one."
[By way of clarification, this bill has never gotten out of committee in the House over the years, and Albo has never had a chance to vote on it on the floor. The vote he is referring to was as part of the crime commission.]
Albo today said it is routine to delay a vote to wait for tardy members of the crime commission. And he said the "forget it" remark was simply a statement of fact about the bill's prospects this year. "If you can't get it out of the Democrat-controlled senate, you're not going to be able to get it passed this year," he elaborated.
"I'm really confused as to why this is all about me," he said. "I bent over backwards to give them their day. [Republican Del.] Rob Bell and I rewrote the entire mental health commitment laws. I am the sponsor and author of the bill that closed the [mental health] loophole that Cho actually used to get the guns. And I voted to close the gun show loophole exactly as they wanted, so I'm just confused about the animus."
He speculated that the family members might be campaigning against him in the hopes that a Democratic House of Delegates would be more favorable toward their legislation.
Haas acknowledged that she would like to see the Democrats take control of the House. "I would be happy to see a House of Delegates that would support gun safety, and I think our best shot is a Democratic-controlled House of Delegates," she said. But she said her problem with Albo goes deeper than that. "Del. Albo's actions belied his words," she said. "To our faces he said, 'Oh I want to close the gun show loophole.' His action was totally opposite."
October 14, 2009; 4:42 PM ET
Categories: Election 2009 , Sandhya Somashekhar
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