RICHMOND — A state Senate committee this week may shelve legislation requiring criminal background checks for all firearms sales at gun shows, but a Republican member of the panel said he will continue working toward a compromise on the divisive issue this year.
The Senate Courts of Justice Committee took no action today on a proposed compromise that was hastily crafted during a Friday meeting. An architect of that deal, Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, said he remains unsatisfied with the legislation and plans to vote against when it comes up for a committee vote, likely on Wednesday.
But Stanley said he will continue to seek a solution agreeable to advocates on both sides of the issue.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Stanley said today. “The devil’s in the details and there’s a lot to make sure that we have this in the right posture.”
On Friday, Stanley and Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico County, sketched out a compromise on closing the so-called “gun show loophole,” which allows buyers to purchase guns from private sellers at gun shows without submitting to a criminal records check. Federally licensed dealers who sell firearms at the same shows must conduct the background checks.
The Courts of Justice Committee initially voted to advance the bill Friday, but later recalled the legislation at Stanley’s request. The proposal would have allowed only federally licensed dealers to sell firearms at gun shows. Under the proposal, private sellers would be allowed to consign guns to licensed dealers, who then could conduct the sale and background check.
Stanley said he wants to find a compromise that would expand background checks at gun shows while preserving the ability of private sellers to sell firearms.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Henry Marsh, D-Richmond, attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration today and was not present for today’s committee meeting. This also happened to be the day that a large group of gun rights advocates were on Capitol Square to lobby legislators.
If Marsh’s bill fails, it’s unclear whether Stanley could get a bill through in this session. The deadline for introducing legislation in the 2013 session was Friday. Stanley would need unanimous consent from the Senate to introduce the bill.
Stanley said he is considering a proposal to have gun show promoters set up a “voluntary kiosk” where criminal background checks could be conducted. To encourage private sellers to use the system, the state could give them civil immunity if the firearms they sell later are used in a negligent way, Stanley said.
“Ultimately, what we’re trying to get at is to encourage behavior of voluntary background checks between private sellers and purchasers without making it a compulsory process,” Stanley said.
Stanley said advocates on both sides of the gun control debate have reacted favorably to the idea. He said he will continue to talk with advocates on both sides of the debate in an effort to find common ground on an issue that gets debated year after year in the General Assembly.
“I think it’s important that people on both sides of the issue get together and talk,” Stanley said.
– Michael Sluss