Representatives of two law enforcement leadership organizations want the federal government to strengthen its system of background checks on gun purchases and have voiced their concerns to Virginia’s U.S. Senate candidates.
Members of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence outlined their position today at a news conference in Richmond, where they also met with Senate candidates George Allen and Tim Kaine. The organizations agreed not to share the candidates’ comments and said they won’t make an endorsement in the race.
But the representatives who spoke at the news conference said they felt strongly about the need to expand background checks on gun transactions to curtail the ability of criminals to obtain firearms. The federal Brady Act requires background checks through federally licensed dealers to block purchases by individuals who are legally prohibited from having guns. But the police groups contend that about 40 percent of gun transactions occur at points where the Brady law does not apply.
“The most obvious initiative is to strengthen the federal background check requirement to cover sales that are now omittted from the required Brady law background check,” said Staunton Police Chief James Williams, the vice president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. “While we discussed other issues, the expanded background check was at the top of our agenda.”
Among other things, the law enforcement groups said they would like to see the background check requirement extended to transactions conducted at gun shows by unlicensed sellers.
In Virginia, the General Assembly has repeatedly defeated proposals to close the so-called “gun show loophole.” As governor, Kaine led the charge in favor of closing the loophole in 2008, a year after the mass shootings at Virginia Tech, but committees in both houses of the legislature voted down the proposal.
Allen received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association during his run for the Republican Senate nomination. The NRA has opposed efforts to broaden background checks to private sales.
Update: Brandi Hoffine, the Kaine campaign’s communications director, had this to say about today’s meeting with the law enforcement groups:
“Governor Kaine had a productive conversation today with the Chiefs of Police about strategies to ensure background checks at gun shows. While he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and served as legal counsel to the effort to guarantee Virginians the right to hunt and fish, he also believes in common-sense measures to ensure felons and the dangerously mentally ill cannot improperly purchase weapons. He was proud to bring Virginians together in the aftermath of Virginia Tech to enact bipartisan reforms that make Virginia’s background checks more effective. In the Senate, he will continue to support efforts that strengthen background checks to make them faster, less cumbersome and more effective at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals or the dangerously mentally ill.”
Allen spokeswomen Emily Davis also has responded:
“George Allen’s door is always open to law enforcement to hear their concerns and ideas. George Allen is committed to the Constitutional rights guaranteed in the Second Amendment and does not support restrictions on the gun rights of law abiding citizens. He has a long record in support of Virginia’s law enforcement community and will continue to work with them.”
– Michael Sluss