AP April 30, 2007
• Database lists people barred from busing guns
• List would include anyone ordered to undergo mental health treatment
• Virginia Tech gunman was treated as an outpatient
• Court finding that shooter was a danger never made it into database
RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) — Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said Monday he has closed the loophole that allowed a mentally disturbed Virginia Tech student to acquire the guns he used to kill 32 students and faculty members.
Kaine issued an executive order requiring that a database of people who are prohibited from buying guns include anyone found to be dangerous and ordered to undergo involuntary mental health treatment.
Seung-Hui Cho had been ordered by a court to undergo psychiatric counseling after a judge ruled that he was a danger to himself.
But because Cho was treated as an outpatient and never committed to a mental health hospital, the court finding never made it into the database that gun dealers must check before selling a firearm. The law prohibits selling firearms to people judged to have mental disabilities.
“Whether that treatment is to be provided in an inpatient or outpatient facility is of no moment,” Kaine said.
Cho did not disclose his mental health problems or the court-ordered treatment in a form he completed before buying the guns.
“His lie on the form would have been caught,” had the order been in place before Cho attempted to buy the guns, Kaine said.
But it would not prevent Cho from acquiring guns by several other means that require no background check in Virginia, including buy-and-trade publications, individual transactions among gun collectors or hobbyists, and gun shows — vast firearms bazaars where scores of people sell or swap firearms.
Legislation that would also subject firearms sales at gun shows to instant background checks is introduced annually in Virginia, and just as often it dies without reaching a floor vote in the General Assembly.
Kaine, a Democrat, has said he expects new support for the legislation this year and that he would support it, as he has in the past.
The executive order does not apply to people who seek mental health care of their own will. After the report is added to Virginia’s state police database, it becomes part of a federal database that gun dealers nationwide use.
Cho, a 23-year-old Virginia Tech senior described as a troubled loner, bought his guns legally through gun shops before gunning down 32 people on campus, then killing himself.
No motive has been established for his rampage.