Debate Over Concealed Weapons

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) -- The "what next" is just beginning, particularly what the Virginia Tech killings mean for the debate over who can bear arms and where they can do it.

We know, or believe we know, how easily Seung-Hui Cho bought his two handguns, and the 200 or so rounds he fired in his killing spree.

"If the current law on the books had been effectively administered and followed, this individual would not have been able to buy those guns," said Paul Helmke who worked for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun violence.

"We have enough laws currently, that if we do a good job of enforcing them, I think they can be very effective," said Rex Kehrli, promoter of the Knoxville Gun Show.

Agreement, on both sides in the gun control debate? Lawmakers say it's hardly that simple.

"There may be some conflicts with some federal and state laws and we need to look at this," said Virginia Lt. Governor Bill Bolling on Fox News Sunday.

Federal law bans selling guns to anybody who's been judged mentally defective or committed to a mental institution.

Two years ago Cho had been admitted, but not committed, strictly for observation. Doctors released him after he agreed to outpatient care. So their was no red flag on the background to block his gun buys, from federally licensed dealers.

In fact, neither Virginia, or Tennessee make your mental records part of the federal database.

"There was a definite a failure of communication, and that ought to be changed with federal legislation," said Republican US Senator Arlen Specter, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

Appearing on the same show, US Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, agreed.

"...that would allow the states, or require the states, to in effect, update their databases," Sen. Schumer said.

Closer to home, one local State representative sees an opportunity to education the public about the virtues of gun ownership.

"He didn't have a criminal history, there's nothing you could have asked him that would have made any difference," Frank Nicely said. "If one person had been there and had a carry permit, that could have saved 10 or 15 lives."

Nicely, who who lives in Strawberry Plains, shares a similar opinion with gun deals, such as Angie Williams who owns a small gun shop in Knoxville.

She says putting so many controls on guns, you are basically hurting the law abiding citizens who get them to protect their homes and their families.

That is a case that Knox County Commissioner Greg Lambert is ready to make after holding accused killer Kane Stackhouse at gunpoint on his car lot last November

"There's no doubt in my mind that he would have shot me and killed me had he had the opportunity to do so," Lambert said.

Representative Nicely recently introduced a bill that could allow Tennesseans to carry a gun virtually anywhere. That bill will come before the Tennessee House Judiciary Committee this coming Wednesday.


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