Plates would memorialize Tech shooting

Published 9:38 pm Monday, February 14, 2011

By Danny Rathbun and Fletcher Babb
Capital News Service

The Virginia Senate has approved a special license plate to memorialize the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings and help the victims’ families. But supporters fear that not enough people will buy the plates — forcing them to postpone the idea.

The Senate last week unanimously approved Senate Bill 804, which would authorize a special license plate saying, “IN REMEMBRANCE, APRIL 16, 2007.” On that date, a student, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded many others before killing himself at the university in Blacksburg. It was the worst school shooting in U.S. history.

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The proposed license plates would cost $25 a year more than regular plates. Of that amount, $15 would go to the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, which helps school-shooting victims and their families and works to prevent campus violence. (The program would start getting the money after the first 1,000 plates are sold.)

Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Burke, is the bill’s chief sponsor; 31 senators and 87 House members signed on as co-sponsors.

“We had more co-patrons than just about any other bill,” Marsden said.

Even so, the plan to offer the memorial license plates remains uncertain.

Under current law, at least 350 people must submit pre-paid applications for a proposed special license plate before the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will create the plate. (A bill pending in the General Assembly would increase the minimum number of orders to 450.)

Fewer than 100 orders have been placed so far for the special memorial plates.

Marsden said the effort needs at least 225 orders to proceed.

“The problem is that we got started late,” he said. “The campaign didn’t get going until early this year.”

SB 804 is now in the House of Delegates. It has been assigned to a subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee. That subcommittee has already killed similar legislation — House Bill 2245, proposed by Delegate Luke Torian, D-Dumfries.

Marsden said he fears some delegates may oppose SB 804 until at least 350 people order the plates.

If the bill passes the House and becomes law, it would take effect July 1. Supporters of the suggested license plates then would have a month to get the 350 pre-paid applications submitted to the DMV. Otherwise, the proposal would be scrapped.

“I’m not sure how the House is going to handle the bill without the full 350 (orders),” Marsden said. “What the procedure says is, you’ve got till August. But they (delegates) may not hear the bill until we’ve got the full 350. So it may have to wait till next time around.”

Marsden said reaction to his bill has generally been positive, but a few people raised objections.

“We got one e-mail from somebody who was against it, because ‘it was disrespectful to put something like that on a license plate. It’s going to get muddy, dirty …’

“But for the most part, it’s been very well received.’”

The VTV Family Outreach Foundation is trying to generate support for the proposed memorial license plates. On its website,, the nonprofit group says it is “requesting these plates in order to honor those who died and who were wounded on April 16, 2007.”

“We want the world to remember that the 32 individuals who died had an irreplaceable impact on those around them and that those who were injured continue to give of themselves through their work and their service,” the website says.

LuAnn McNabb, the foundation’s executive director, said the group has two purposes: to make sure campuses are safe, and to take care of victims of school shootings and other campus violence.

“They want to be there for the family,” McNabb said.

If SB 804 fails or the campaign falls short of the 350 orders, all of the applications and money collected would be returned.