Will Navy Yard shooting impact Va. gun laws?

Posted at 1:52 PM, Sep 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-19 13:52:19-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) - Aaron Alexis purchased the shotgun investigators said he used in the deadly Washington Navy Yard attack in Virginia. That revelation has rekindled Virginia gun laws discussions among state lawmakers.

According to attorneys for the Lorton-based gun shop Sharp Shooters, Alexis purchased the weapon after he passed all required federal and state background checks; despite his now well-documented mental issues.

Federal law allowed the purchased because an individual must be declared "mentally unfit" by a court of law to disqualify them from buying a long gun, multiple national media reports indicate.  Shotguns, like the one Alexis purchased, are considered long guns.

Even though a federal ruling allows it, some Virginia lawmakers question how Alexis could legally purchase the gun despite red flags.

"Certainly the background check should be filled with current information, and anyone who has a history like this gentleman did, that [mental history] should come forward in any kind of background investigation," Delegate Dickie Bell (R - Stauton) said. "Apparently, it did not."

Virginia lawmakers have considered legislation that limits the sale of guns to the mentally ill in the recent past.

A bill considered during the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session sought to ban the sale of firearms to anyone deemed mentally incompetent or incapacitated by Virginia courts, among other restrictions.

That bill was passed-by before it reached the Senate floor.  The bill's sponsor, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D - Arlington) said via email that, to his knowledge, Aaron Alexis did not fit the criteria laid out in the bill. He said it would not have affected the purchase of the shotgun.

Still, local lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have trouble with the fact that Alexis could buy the gun despite seeking mental health treatment prior to the shooting.

"That's pretty much an acknowledgement that they have some issues.  The same thing happened, I think, with the shooter at Virginia Tech," Del. Bell said.

Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D - Richmond) said on the phone Thursday that she believes it will be difficult to alter existing background check regulations without significant public outcry.

A limited number of states, such as New York, have stricter mental health reporting requirements than federal standards, according to the Wall Street Journal.