Gun control vs. Gun rights: Both sides take aim

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Both sides of the gun debate took aim today at federal lawmakers. One side says the government is doing too much, while the other side believes lawmakers are not doing enough.

Today, the latter side gave local newspaper readers a $12,000 argument for better gun control. But in Washington, the other side delivered its message, in person.

You'll find it, on page A3 of the Richmond Times-Dispatch… a $12,000 advertisement/open letter to Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner. It was signed by six people, including one survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre, and the mother of one more.

"We're disappointed in our legislators, we're upset with our legislators," said Lori Hass, whose daughter, Emily, was injured in the 2007 shootings.

Hass and other Virginia Tech families want lawmakers to close what they call the "gun show loophole", even though she's well aware that's not how gunman Seung-Hui Cho got his.

"Would it make everybody happier if Cho had gotten his gun at a gun show? The fact of the matter is guns do not belong in the hands of the mentally ill. And there are methods by which they're getting them, and one of them is a gun show," Hass said.

The full page ad sheds light on a private meeting the Virginia Tech families had with Sen. Webb in May of 2009. In that meeting, they say Webb gave assurance that he would support background checks on all purchasers at gun shows. The letter also states that Sen. Warner would at least consider the same.

The so-called "loophole" occurs when people buy firearms from private sellers at a gun show, and avoids the usual background check. But gun-rights advocates say closing it amounts to a crackdown on the constitution. In Washington, D.C., and in Alexandria today, thousands of Second Amendment supporters rallied to support their rights.

"I think guns are dangerous in the hands of criminals. In the hands of law abiding citizens - I think it's an excellent thing," said Rachel Cook, who attended one of the rallies.

In Richmond, though, a different tone. Advocates for tighter gun control don't want another day to go by without change.

"We're disappointed, and frankly, we want some action. And we want it now," Hass said.

Late today, spokespeople for Senators Warner and Webb issued the following statements.

From Kevin Hall, Communications Director for Sen. Mark Warner:

"Senator Warner has a record of supporting Second Amendment rights and he will weigh any future proposals that come before the full Senate. He also will continue to work for full funding to make sure the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is complete and up-to-date – improvements that were mandated by Congress following the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy."

From Will Jenkins, Deputy Communications Director, Sen. Jim Webb:

"Senator Webb is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. He also believes that appropriate laws and procedures should be kept in place to ensure that guns should be kept out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He will continue to work with his colleagues in the Senate toward both ends."

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