Skip to comments.McDonnell targets Virginia background checks for guns
Posted on 01/02/2012 6:57:38 AM PST by marktwain
Gov. Bob McDonnell said if it's legally feasible, he'd support doing away with Virginia's 22-year-old criminal background check program for firearms purchases in favor of a federal system that also screens prospective gun buyers for eligibility to obtain weapons.
Gun rights groups have pressed the McDonnell administration on the issue, calling for an end to the Virginia Firearms Transaction Program, a state police-administered system for checking the criminal history of potential purchasers. Supporters of the state program say it's an additional safeguard to ensure state gun laws are upheld and attempts to illegally purchase weapons are investigated by local authorities.
Among those lobbying the governor is the National Rifle Association.
Officials with the gun lobby consider the state system unnecessary because of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which was established in 1998.
They note that dozens of states rely solely on the federal system and point to Delaware's recent decision to end its state background checks.
Under the current process in Virginia, potential gun buyers are run through state and federal checks. The scans look for records that would prohibit a purchase - things such as a criminal history, residency status in the country, drug offenses, a dishonorable military discharge, and mental health adjudications.
While there is much overlap between the two programs, state police officials have cautioned that current gun restrictions unique to Virginia might not block a sale if the federal system were the only screening method in place.
That's one reason gun control advocates oppose efforts to undo the Virginia program.
In a recent interview, McDonnell said his administration continues to evaluate whether there's a way to ensure that all of the state restrictions could be included in a national check.
The governor said if that can be done, "then we ought to get rid of it and only have one. I fully subscribe to that." McDonnell didn't say how soon that could be achieved or when his staff will conclude its review.
To make it happen, several differences between the two background check systems would need to be reconciled.
State police officials say Virginia rules for protective orders apply to more family situations than federal standards. They note that Virginia's drug policy disqualifies buyers for longer periods of time, and that rules also differ on foreign-born purchasers.
Virginia law blocks people with juvenile felony convictions from obtaining a weapon, but the state severely limits access to state juvenile criminal records, so information about youthful felonies doesn't appear in federal background checks.
A possible solution to that has been offered by Chesapeake Del. John Cosgrove, a Republican who previously filed legislation to allow juvenile records to be shared with the U.S. attorney general.
Although his bill failed, Cosgrove said he plans to reintroduce it in the legislative session that begins Jan. 11 as a vehicle to create uniformity between that aspect of state policy and the federal background check system.
Like McDonnell, Cosgrove supports the idea of exclusively using the federal background check program if a firm link between Virginia gun laws and the federal system can be established.
Other differences between the state and federal systems involve how they view mental health treatment. Both bar those who have been involuntarily committed from purchasing guns.
Virginia law also specifies that someone evaluated under a temporary detention order who then enters voluntary treatment would be barred from purchasing a weapon - a nod to Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho's history with the mental health system.
In addition, the federal system doesn't limit handgun purchases to one a month, as Virginia law does.
Virginia's background check system is the first of its type in the nation, but in recent years it has been ridiculed by gun buyers who complain about the slow processing times and the $2 fee they are charged.
State Police attribute any delays to a growing number of requests for checks as staff assigned to the task has shrunk.
How about getting rid of the BATF altogether and just leave things up to the states??
And a costly bureaucratic duplication burdening the taxpayers of Virginia.
Another problem is that gun buyers who are delayed aren't given any reason for the delay. No one has any right to see their own records or have any opportunity to address any discrepancies in their records. It has developed into a backdoor method of gun ownership limitation.
Typical of the laws that cancel out each other, but remain through inertia - or design.