Some of the families of students killed and wounded in the mass shooting at Virginia Tech are continuing to press for federal legislation to close the so-called gun show loophole.
In a full-page advertisement in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Monday, they asked Democratic U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner to support a bill that would require private sellers to run background checks on prospective buyers at gun shows. Gun-rights advocates oppose the measure.
The "open letter'' purchased by a group called Virginians For Public Safety appeared a few days after the third anniversary of the April 16, 2007, slayings, and a day before the 11th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. It said Webb had told some of the families that he would support requiring such checks, which already are required for licensed gun dealers.
"We appreciate your leadership and your willingness to work with the families on this issue,'' the letter said. "Now is the time to deliver on your promise to the Virginia Tech families and endorse legislation to close this dangerous gap.''
The families also are asking Warner to state his position on the bill. Telephone and e-mail messages to both senators' offices weren't immediately returned Monday.
The legislation, which was introduced a year ago by New Jersey Democrat Frank R. Lautenberg but has yet to be heard in committee, would require background checks on all sales at gun shows that have at least 50 weapons for sale. Also, event promoters would be required to register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, maintain a list of vendors at all gun shows and ensure that all vendors acknowledge they've gotten information about their legal obligations.
Student gunman Seung-Hui Cho bought the two weapons he used to kill 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty members from licensed firearms dealers, not at gun shows. But the massacre prompted some of the victims' families to push for tightening gun control laws.
The letter was signed by Lori Haas, mother of injured student Emily Haas; Joe Samaha and Omar Samaha, the father and brother, respectively, of slain student Reema Samaha; Peter Read, the father of slain student Mary Read; and injured student Colin Godard and his father, Andrew Godard.