Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine yesterday signed an executive order closing a loophole that allowed Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui Cho to purchase firearms even though he had been declared dangerously mentally ill, reports the Washington Post. Cho, who killed 32 people and himself, was able to purchase his Glock 19 and Walther .22-caliber guns even though a court had found him to be mentally ill and a threat to himself or others. Under federal law, Cho should have been barred from buying the weapons. Virginia did not enter his name in the database because he had not been involuntarily committed to a hospital.
Once someone’s name is in the database, he is prohibited under state and federal law from purchasing a weapon until a court decides he is no longer a threat to others or himself. Licensed gun dealers nationwide are supposed to check the database before they complete a gun sale. Even if someone’s name appears in the database, there are ways for him to obtain a gun. In Virginia, some unlicensed dealers or people making one-on-one sales, such as at a gun show, are not required to conduct a background check. The legislature has repeatedly rejected efforts to close the gun show loophole.