…is already on the books. When one reads this News Hour transcript, it’s striking how little daylight there is between Dave Kopel, the libertarian gun-rights defender, and Matt Bennett, the center-left gun control advocate (I say “center-left” because Bennett’s Americans for Gun Safety aims to provide a moderate alternative to the shrill, ban-them-all mania that grips most of the gun control movement). Kopel and Bennett agree that Cho Seung-Hui should have been prevented from buying a gun based on his history of mental illness.
Federal law, BATF regulations, and federal judicial precedent all hold that if someone is found by a magistrate to be a danger to others or to himself (as the state magistrate in Virginia determined that Cho was), he is barred from owning a gun. The fact that the magistrate that evaluated Cho’s case recommended outpatient treatmant rather than commitment shouldn’t have mattered. The problem is that state magistrates and mental health professionals aren’t always aware that a situation like Cho’s calls for an update to the instant background check database.
It looks like Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is going to sign an executive order that will fix this problem. Good for him; other governors should do the same.
Meanwhile, there has been movement in Tennessee toward rolling back the ill-advised “gun-free zones” that I discussed in my column last week. It is a welcome surprise that, rather than symbolic or counterproductive regulations, this tragedy seems to be inspiring responses that are actually constructive.