Members of a Virginia Senate committee will make one more try this year to forge a compromise on legislation that could expand the use of criminal background checks at gun shows.
Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, introduced a bill (Senate Bill 1372) today that would allow private sellers at gun shows to ask the Virginia State Police to perform a criminal records check on a prospective buyers at gun shows. Under existing law, only federally licensed dealers are required to run background checks, and private sellers have no access to the system.
Edwards said he hopes the compromise, which has co-sponsors in both parties, can settle a long-running debate over the so-called “gun show loophole.” Gun control advocates argue that the loophole makes it easy for gun-buyers to avoid criminal background checks by seeking out private sellers at gun shows. Gun rights lobbyists have to support mandatory background checks on private sales.
“I think people on both sides will think it’s a good compromise,” said Edwards, who received unanimous consent from the Senate to introduce the bill today.
The bill could come up in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee Friday morning. The Senate has a Tuesday deadline to finish work on its own legislation for the 2013 session.
Even if Edwards’ bill gets through the Senate, it could face stiff opposition in the Republican-dominated House of Delegates. Gun-related bills typically get referred to a Republican-dominated House subcommittee that has been hostile toward firearms restrictions.
Edwards bill would require the state police to be available to perform background checks for private sales at gun shows if one of the parties wants one. For the bill to take effect, the U.S. Department of Justice must approve the policies and procedures that the state police will use to implement the provisions of the bill.
Edwards proposed a similar compromise in 2008, when there was a push to close the gun show loophole in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings.
The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-7 last week to kill a bill (SB 1001) that was originally designed to require criminal records checks for all firearms transactions at gun shows, including those by private sellers. The bill died 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.
“The concern was whether the state police had the ability under federal law to do the background checks,” said Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, a key player in trying to broker a compromise on the issue.
Edwards said he, Stanley, Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment of James City County, and Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico County, worked out the details of the bill.