RICHMOND — Legislation aimed at closing Virginia’s so-called “gun show loophole” won’t advance this year, but members of a state Senate committee pledged today to work toward a compromise that could expand the use of criminal background checks for firearms sales.
The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-7 today to kill legislation (Senate Bill 1001) that was originally designed to require criminal records checks for all firearms transactions at gun shows, including those by private sellers. The bill was voted down after committee members on both sides of the issue failed to cement a compromise that would enable private sellers at gun shows to seek background checks on a voluntary basis.
Gun control advocates for years have pressed legislators to pass a law requiring criminal records checks for all firearms sales at gun shows. Buyers can 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 checks.
Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, who initiated the efforts to work out a compromise, promised to continue negotiations and come up with a bill for next year. Stanley said he and other committee members had developed “a working solution in conceptual form,” but need more time to work on the legislation.
Under the framework that Stanley described today, gun show promoters “would create a kiosk or a desk where voluntary checks could occur.”
Stanley said the legislation won’t require private sellers to use the background checks, but would contain incentives to encourage them to use the system and make background checks “a normal practice.”
“I was encouraged by both sides’ willingness to sit at the table and discuss these issues openly and try to find a solution,” Stanley said.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Henry Marsh, D-Richmond, asked the committee to hold the bill and give members more time to work toward a compromise this year. But the committee’s chairman, Sen. Thomas Norment, R-James City County, insisted that the panel act on the bill Wednesday.
“I am not of an inclination to continue to drag this on,” Norment said.
Norment was the only Republican on the committee to vote for a revised version of Marsh’s bill, which would have allowed private sellers to consign firearms to federally licensed dealers who can access the criminal records database.
Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, was the only Democrat on the committee who voted against the bill. But Edwards, who has been involved in the negotiations, also wanted more time to work on it this year.
“I think everybody will be satisfied once this is done,” said Edwards, who often breaks with his party on gun issues.
– Michael Sluss