Virginia closes gun sale loophole

Published May 1, 2007

RICHMOND, Va. - Gov. Timothy M. Kaine on Monday closed a loophole in state law that allowed the Virginia Tech gunman to buy weapons despite a court ruling that he was a threat and needed psychiatric counseling.

Kaine issued an executive order requiring that a database of people banned from buying guns include the name of anyone who is found to be dangerous and ordered to get involuntary mental health treatment.

Seung-Hui Cho was told to get counseling in 2005 after a judge ruled he was a danger to himself. But because Cho was treated as an outpatient and never committed, the ruling was not entered into the database, which dealers check before selling a weapon.

Cho did not disclose his mental 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 tried to buy the guns, Kaine said.

But it would not have prevented 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.

Cho, a 23-year-old Virginia Tech senior described as a troubled loner, bought his guns legally through gun shops before fatally shooting 32 people on campus, then killing himself.

No motive has been established for his rampage.

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.