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The Virginia Tech massacre occurred 10 years ago. Here's what has changed on gun control.

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The Virginia Tech massacre occurred 10 years ago. Here's what has changed on gun control.

WATCH | After the Virginia Tech massacre, a review panel made roughly 70 recommendations on various topics, including law enforcement protocol and campus safety initiatives. It also urged politicians to consider gun control measures. Here's what has, and hasn't, been implemented since the shooting.

Sunday, April 16, 2017, marks ten years since the United States experienced the deadliest school shooting in its some 200-year history--amounting to the deaths of 32 Virginia Tech students and faulty. Though a decade has passed, witnesses and victims' friends and family members continue to bear the physical scars and emotional burden of that day's unexpected violence. 

Following the tragedy, an independent commission -- the Virginia Tech Review Panel-- was created to conduct a comprehensive review of the university's law enforcement protocol, campus safety program, and emergency planning initiatives. The report, which took nearly five months to compile, was ultimately presented to Gov. Tim Kaine, D-VA, and included roughly 70 recommendations  the university should consider in order to prevent another incident from occurring. 

Here's what has, and hasn't, changed on gun control.

The Clery Act

In the nearly 260-page report, the Virginia Tech Review Panel recommended to Gov. Kaine that higher-ed institutions must comply with the Clery Act, which requires "timely" public warnings of imminent danger, the report outlined. One year after the incident, Congress amended the federal legislation to require higher-ed institutions to implement an alert system during active shooter incidents, according to University Business. It also requires universities to develop overall emergency protocols and make them public.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

The gunman behind Virginia Tech's massacre, Seung-Hui Cho, 23,  had a record of mental health issues since his adolescent years. In 2005, a Virginia court described Cho a danger to himself and ordered him to receive outpatient psychiatric treatment, the Roanoke Times noted. Despite the court mandate, Cho never received such treatment.

Under federal law, Cho was not legally authorized to purchase guns or ammunition. 

Due to ambiguity in the law, however, the order ultimately did not prohibit Cho from purchasing the guns and ammunition that he would later use against his classmates and professors. At the time, federal law prevented gun sales to anyone "adjudicated as a mental defective," but, Virginia only flagged those who had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.

After the shooting, in 2008, former President George W. Bush signed the NICS Improvement Amendments Act (NIAA), which aimed to address the gap in mental health information available to NICS, a U.S. system designed to determine who can and cannot legally purchase firearms. It also authorized more than a billion dollars in grants to states and territories committed to improving record keeping systems, according to Trace, an independent organization that covers gun control issues.

"Filling these information gaps will better enable the system to operate as intended, to keep guns out of the hands of persons prohibited by federal or state law from receiving or possessing firearms," the Bureau of Justice Statistics noted.


The legislation brought a dramatic improvement in the reporting of mental health records to NICS. In 2007, the database--which contains state and federal records identifying those who are prohibited form owning guns--contained 518,499 records. In 2016, that number jumped nearly 800 percent to 4,487,573, Trace noted.

In 2016, after the San Bernardino shootings, President Obama unfurled a series of executive orders on gun control. Among the revisions included efforts to to make it easier for people to share the mental health records of those banned from owning firearms, Forbes reported. The Department of Health and Human Services also finalized a rule to remove "unnecessary legal barriers" preventing states from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.

In 2017, newly-inaugurated President Trump reversed Obama-era gun control measures, USA Today reported. 

The "gun show loophole"

The "gun show loophole" became a frequently-cited topic throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. The Virginia Tech Review Panel urged Virginia to "require background checks for all firearms sales, including those at gun shows." 

According to the Center for Public Integrity, private sales at gun shows are mostly unregulated. There's no requirement that the sellers must have a firearm license, and there's no mandate requiring background checks for customers.

Gov. Kaine attempted several times to reverse the legislation, but his efforts weren't met with success. He did, however, introduce bipartisan legislation in 2016 to have state police provide background checks at gun shows for private sellers who requested them, according to NBC12. Over the course of six months, state police spent about $300,000 to hire extra officers to perform such duties. Ultimately, they conducted 39 requested checks at 41 gun shows. One buyer was blocked and arrested on an outstanding warrant.

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