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UPDATED--VaTech families: Webb is committed to closing gun show loophole

Rosalind Helderman

A group of six victims and family members of victims of the 2007 mass shootings at Virginia Tech is pushing Virginia Sens. Jim Webb (D) and Mark Warner (D) to endorse a bill pending in Congress that would close the so-called gun show loophole, requiring anyone who purchases a firearm at a gun show to undergo a background check.

Currently it is possible in some states, including Virginia, to purchase guns from private vendors at gun shows without a background check. In a full-page ad in today's Richmond Times Dispatch, six family members write that Webb committed to them in a private meeting that he supported the change in law. They called on him to "deliver on your promise" and endorse legislation on the issue.

In an interview, Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was injured in the shootings, said the group met with Webb on May 22, 2009 in his Capitol Hill office. She said Webb, long an outspoken supporter of gun rights, said he supported background checks for all gun purchases, including at gun shows. She said the family members have been in touch with his office ever since, encouraging public action and had made clear they hoped he would come forward before the April 16 anniversary of shootings.

"He came out firmly behind requiring background checks of all purchases at gun shows," Haas said. Since then, she said, "we've been waiting."

Haas said the family members met with Warner on June 9 and he was noncommittal on the issue.

Staffers for Warner and Webb have not yet responded.

In addition to Haas, the letter is signed by Joe Samaha, whose daughter Rema was killed at Virginia Tech, along with Rema's brother Omar Samaha. Other signers are Peter Read, daughter of Mary Read, who was killed in the attack, Collin Goddard, who was injured, and his father Andrew Goddard.

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: Will Jenkins, a spokesman for Webb, has sent the following statement. It does not directly address whether Webb supports closing the gun-show loophole.: "Senator Webb is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. He also believes that appropriate laws and procedures should be kept in place to ensure that guns should be kept out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He will continue to work with his colleagues in the Senate toward both ends," Jenkins wrote.

5:56 p.m.: Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Warner, has responded as well. Like Jenkins, he did not directly address the gun show issue. "Senator Warner has a record of supporting Second Amendment rights and he will weigh any future proposals that come before the full Senate. He also will continue to work for full funding to make sure the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is complete and up-to-date - improvements that were mandated by Congress following the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy," he wrote in a statement.

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By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 19, 2010; 2:18 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  | Tags: Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech massacre  
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