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Gun-show loophole bill advances, retreats

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Legislation that would have required anyone buying a weapon at a Virginia gun show to undergo a criminal background check made it out of a Senate committee Friday — but only briefly.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted Friday morning for a bill that would have closed the so-called gun show loophole. Under current state law, licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks. Private sellers do not.

Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) and Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (D-Richmond) both proposed bills that would have required private vendors at gun shows to conduct the checks, with the show providing access to licensed dealers who could conduct the checks on their behalf.

The committee folded the bills into one and advanced it to the full Senate with an 8-6 vote.

But one of the committee members who had voted to advance the bill thought better of it by the time the Senate convened at noon. Sen. William M. Stanley (R-Franklin) said he was concerned that an amendment to the bill, adopted during the committee meeting, had been worded in a way to exclude private vendors from gun shows.

The Senate paused its proceedings so the committee could reconvene at an impromptu session at Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City)’s desk on the Senate floor.

There was a motion, made by Sen. Thomas A. Garrett (R-Louisa) to kill the bill. But members voted instead to refer it back to committee after Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) argued that such a decision should be made with some public notice.

The bill is expected to be back before the committee next week.

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