Va. Panel Rejects Closing Gun Law Loophole

Lori Haas, mother of injured Virginia Tech student, Emily Haas, addresses a meeting of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Friday, Jan. 18, 2008. Virginia Tech family members including Andy Goddard, seated left, Alice Montjoy, of the Virginia Center for Public Safety, second from left, Joseph Samaha, second from right, and Luann McNabb, right, listen. The committee defeated a bill that would close the gun show loophole (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
AP Photo/Steve Helber
Emotional pleas by relatives and friends of Virginia Tech shooting victims failed Friday to persuade a legislative committee to close a loophole that allows criminals and the mentally ill to buy firearms at Virginia gun shows.

The House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee voted 13-9 to kill legislation that would require unlicensed sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks on buyers.

Such checks now are required only on transactions by federally licensed gun dealers.

Only a few relatives of those killed and wounded during the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech were able to attend the meeting because they had less than 24 hours notice. The committee refused to delay a vote until more family members could be there.

Thirty-two people were killed at the Virginia Tech by a mentally disturbed student who committed suicide as police closed in.

"Please don't say these innocent lives were lost," said Lori Haas of Richmond, whose daughter Emily was shot twice in the head but survived. "They weren't lost - they were killed by a sick person who should not have had that gun."

Gun-rights advocates who opposed the bill noted that the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, did not buy his weapon at a gun show.