President Bush signed a measure seeking to expand the federal database used to screen gun buyers to include the estimated 2 million-plus people, including felons and the mentally ill, who are ineligible to buy firearms, reports the Los Angeles Times. Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center said there was “far more bad in this bill than good,” expressing concern about a provision that could restore gun-owning privileges to some people now barred from purchasing firearms. She said veterans judged to be mentally incompetent could to seek to get their gun privileges restored if they could show that they were unlikely to endanger public safety or that they had received treatment and recovered.
Even with the bill’s enactment, the emotionally charged gun issue is unlikely to gain more traction on Capitol Hill this year. Democrats have shied away from the issue since 2000, believing that presidential candidate Al Gore lost support in rural states because he supported gun control. Efforts to strengthen the background-check system have been debated for years, but the movement gained momentum after Seung-hui Cho killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech before taking his own life last April in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. He had been ordered by a court to undergo outpatient mental health treatment, and should have been barred from buying the two handguns he used in the rampage, but his name was never entered into the background-check system.