LawFuel – The Law Newswire – Reports worldwide on the Virginia Tech shootings and now the NASA shooting concern where America goes with its gun laws.
Debate is raging over gun controls after reports said that Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui should not have been able to legally buy guns due to his mental health history.
With the nation rocked by yet another shocking murder-suicide on Friday at a NASA building in Texas, critics began to assail the state of Virginia, where Cho was able to buy two handguns in a little more than a month, despite having been held and ordered for counselling, ABC News reports.
Friday was also coincidentally the eighth anniversary of the day two students shot 12 dead at Columbine High School in Colorado, the previous most deadly school shooting in the country before Cho slaughtered 32 at the south-west Virginia university last Monday before killing himself.
Just four days after Cho’s rampage, a NASA contractor managed to sneak a revolver into the Johnson Space Centre in Houston in Texas and kill a hostage and himself inside a building.
Media reports say Cho’s history of mental illness two years ago should have prevented him from obtaining the two handguns he used, even under Virginia’s lenient state firearms purchase rules.
The New York Times says federal law should have prevented the sale of the guns to Cho – one from a local gun dealer and another over the Internet via a local pawnshop, because two years ago a judge ruled that the moody loner presented “an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness”.
At the time Cho, an English major at Virginia Tech, had been reported to campus police for stalking two women and professors had taken note of him as disturbed, anti-social and possibly dangerous.
But even though police held him for a day and ordered him to obtain counselling, that information did not make it into the records that gun dealers consult before making a gun sale.
“It’s clear we have an imperfect connection between state law and the application of the federal prohibition,” Richard Bonnie, who leads a commission on mental health law reform for the Virginia state supreme court, told the newspaper.
Earlier, the Brady Campaign, which fights for tougher gun controls across the United States, argued that Cho’s history as an “adjudicated as a mental incompetent” should have prevented him from acquiring guns under the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968.
But in rural areas like the rolling hills that surround Virginia Tech, guns and hunting are an established way of life and there is spare support for an overhaul of gun laws.
Indeed, gun purchases and especially requests for state permits to carry concealed weapons, are up since the massacre, anecdotal reports from gun dealers and pawn shops say.
“We even had a Virginia Tech professor apply for a concealed gun permit,” one pawnshop employee near Blacksburg said, while refusing to allow his name or his shop’s name to be used.
Virginia has some of the most lax handgun purchase laws in the country, so lenient that Cho could buy the two pistols without a licence in just a two-month period.
The state requires licences to carry a concealed handgun, but those only require filling out a form, paying about $US40 and waiting a few weeks for the state to check one’s criminal background.