Virginia Closes Loophole That Armed College Gunman
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia closed a loophole Monday in the state’s gun laws that allowed a mentally disturbed Virginia Tech student to buy the guns used in a shooting rampage this month that left 33 dead at the university.
The governor issued an executive order intended to prohibit the sale of guns to anyone found to be dangerous and forced to undergo involuntary mental health treatment. Under the order, their names would be included a database of people banned from buying guns.
In December 2005, a Virginia judge directed Seung-Hui Cho, the gunman in the April 16 massacre, to undergo outpatient treatment. But because Cho was treated as an outpatient and was not committed to a mental health hospital, Virginia did not send his name to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Only 22 states submit any mental health records to the federal database. Federal gun laws depend on the states for enforcement, and the failure of Virginia to flag Cho has raised growing questions about the adequacy of background checks to scrutinize potential gun buyers.
Bush Steps up Effort to Persuade Putin on Missile Defense Plan
President Bush, under pressure from allies in Europe to be more forthcoming about his plans for basing missile interceptors in the region, said Monday that he was intensifying his efforts to persuade Russia to cooperate with the United States on the initiative “so that they don’t see us as an antagonistic force, but see us as a friendly force.”
Bush said he was trying to convince President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that cooperation was “in Russia’s security interests,” even though Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was unable to win Putin’s support during a trip to Moscow last week.
The president spoke in the Rose Garden after a meeting with leaders of the European Union that produced an agreement for the United States and Europe to work together to reduce pollution, which scientists say leads to climate change. But the agreement did not address the enormous differences that remain between the United States and Europe over these greenhouse gas emissions, and what role governments should play in reducing them.
Justices Back Police in Chase Case
The police did not violate a speeding driver’s rights by ramming his car and causing an accident that left him permanently paralyzed, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday by a vote of 8-1.
Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that despite the fact that the 19-year-old driver was suspected of nothing more than speeding, the decision to force him off the road was reasonable in light of the need to protect pedestrians and other drivers from “a Hollywood-style car chase of the most frightening sort.”
The justices took the unusual step — a first for the court — of posting on the court’s Web site the 15-minute video of the chase, recorded by a camera mounted on the squad car’s dashboard. (The address is http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/video/scott-v-harris.rmvb )
Scalia said the videotape demonstrated the danger posed by the efforts of the driver, Victor Harris, to elude the police on a narrow and winding Georgia road. Scalia added that the federal appeals court in Atlanta, which ruled that Harris was entitled to a jury trial on his constitutional claims against the sheriff’s deputy who forced him off the road, should have viewed the tape with more care rather than accept Harris’ version of how the chase proceeded.