http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070422/ts ... ZUx4vMWM0F Yahoo! News Pro-gun lobby strengthened following US campus shooting by Stephanie GriffithSun Apr 22, 3:59 PM ET The powerful US gun lobby, far from being weakened by last week's tragic college campus shooting, actually has emerged stronger, gun advocates said, stepping up calls Sunday for a better-armed US citizenry to prevent future attacks. Gun rights advocates said that following last week's massacre, in which 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui fatally shot 32 victims at Virginia Tech University, gun control forces will be hard pressed to make the case for tighter restrictions. "This is a huge nail in the coffin of gun control," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the gun rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League. "They had gun control on campus and it got all those people killed, because nobody could defend themselves," he told AFP. "You want people to be able to defend themselves -- always," he said. Van Cleave said the tragedy could give a boost to a years-long effort in Virginia to pass legislation allowing students to carry weapons on campus -- especially since existing laws failed to prevent Cho's murderous rampage. "Gun control failed. That student under university rules was not to have a gun," Van Cleave said. "Come legislative season, which is in January, we're going to be fighting to get a bill put in again -- the third year in a row now and hopefully this time it will pass -- that would let students that are over 21 with a permit ... carry concealed self-defense," he said. The bill, which would also allow any faculty member possessing a concealed carry permit to carry a concealed weapon, has a "greatly enhanced" chance of passage following the Virginia Tech shooting, Van Cleave said. The southeastern state where the shootings took place allows anyone 21 years of age or older and holding a concealed handgun permit to carry a weapon. That is not true, however of college campuses, where most universities have a strict prohibition against carrying guns -- much to the chagrin of the state's pro-gun activists. Other gun rights advocates echo Van Cleave's view that had even one Virginia Tech student or faculty member been armed, last week's carnage might have been prevented. "The only person who is responsible to defend you is you -- the police are incapable of defending each and every one of us all the time," said Mike Stollenwerk, 44, co-founder of OpenCarry.org, a Virginia-based gun-rights networking group. "Citizens have an inherent right to be able to defend themselves," he said, speaking last week to The Washington Times newspaper. "You can't always have a policeman on every street corner to take care of you. Whenever you have a bunch of gun-control laws that prohibit people from carrying, the ones with the guns are the criminals." Many had expected that the Virginia Tech rampage would be a rallying cry for gun control activists, but that has not turned out to be the case. Even the mass killings at Colorado's Columbine High School in 1999 failed to result in gun-control legislation, despite the emotional outcry over those shootings. The reaction has been even more muted following last week's tragedy, the deadliest school shooting in US history. US politicians have shown little inclination to introduce new gun control legislation in a country where an estimated 40 percent of US households own a gun and where for many the constitutional right to bear arms is seen as sacred. Reports that Cho's past brush with mental health authorities should have prevented him from being able to purchase a firearm is prompting a legislative reaction, however. US Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (news, bio, voting record) on Sunday announced plans to introduce federal bill requiring states to send critical mental health information to the federal government, which will allow them to screen out those who don't qualify to own firearms. US media reported Sunday that a similar proposed bill in California impose mandatory background checks for buyers of handgun ammunition, require a face-to-face purchase instead of by mail, and require gun shops to store ammunition behind counters. Schumer said about his bill that federal gun laws are only as good as the records provided by states. "Our legislation, had it been in place last week, may well have stopped last weeks unspeakable tragedy," Schumer said in a statement.