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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Shot off the Mark

Earlier this week Americans United for Safe Streets, the gun safety advocacy group financially supported by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, released a television ad attacking former Attorney General Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a Republican running to be the state’s governor.

The ad features Omar Samaha, whose sister died in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, speaking to camera. Samaha says that his sister’s "killer got his guns because of a gap in Virginia’s background check," and then challenges McDonnell for not wanting to close "another loophole" that allows purchases to be made at gun shows with no background checks.

The attack leaves out some important details though. It is true that Seung-Hui Cho was able to procure his guns despite a psychiatric evaluation because he was treated as an outpatient and the information was never entered into a government database. But the ad does not mention that the loophole was closed by executive order two weeks after the shooting.  And that executive order was supported by then-Attorney General McDonnell, who assisted in its creation. We’d also note that  Cho did not purchase his guns at a gun show. He purchased them through dealers within the state of Virginia.