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Post-Virginia Tech Bill Expected to Pass House

June 13, 2007  | 

Following the wake of the deadliest massacre in modern U.S. history, where a deranged gunman murdered 32 others and himself in April at Virginia Tech University, the House of Representatives is expected to approve a bill that would prevent mentally ill individuals from gaining access to weapons. The bill is slated for a vote today.

In a departure from its trademark highly vocal pro-gun law stance, the National Rifle Association (NRA)—the nation's most prominent gun rights lobbyist—assisted with the drafting of the proposed House legislation, Reuters reported.

If passed, the gun control bill would be the first enacted into law since 1884. The law entails the provision of financial incentives for states that provide mental health and criminal records to a data base used for federal background checks on gun buyers.

"It's going to pass," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat and a chief sponsor of the bill. "It's a good deal, and it's going to save lives."

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, agrees— provided lawmakers refrain from loading it with additional gun control amendments.

"We've always been vigilant about protecting the (gun) rights of law-abiding citizens, but we have been equally vigilant about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and mental defectives and other people who shouldn't have them," says LaPierre. "If this bill is kept in its present form, I predict it will pass the House and Senate and be signed into law; but, if they turn it into a gun-control wish list, we will withdraw our support."

Historically, Congress has avoided the politically charged gun control topic; however, lawmakers revisited the issue following a disclosure that a judge had deemed the Virginia Tech gunman as a threat to society prior to the horrific shootings.

The information fell through the cracks in the system and as such was never accessed during the gun permit application. Today's proposed House bill seeks to eliminate those cracks.

The new gun control bill effort has drawn wide bipartisan support. Some mental health groups, however, are wary that if enacted into law, it would discourage the mentally ill from seeking help and that the bill fails to take into consideration that people can be cured.

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