McCain, Reed, DeWine, Lieberman to Offer Gun Show Background Check Amendment to Gun Immunity Bill

WASHINGTON —Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) today announced they will introduce an amendment to the gun industry immunity bill, S. 659, to eliminate a significant loophole in the 1993 Brady Act that allows criminals who would not be able to buy a weapon in a store to purchase guns from un-licensed weapons sellers at gun shows, flea markets or swap meets. The amendment would require background checks at all gun shows where at least 75 guns are sold and encourage states to modernize and automate their criminal history and domestic violence records.

The gun industry immunity bill may be debated in the Senate as early as next week.

This amendment, which the Senators also introduced today as stand-alone legislation, would lead to faster and more accurate background checks. All states would initially have up to three business days to conduct background checks. After a three-year transition period, states may move to a 24-hour check for unlicensed dealers if the U.S. Attorney General has certified that 95 percent of the state’s records, including 95 percent of domestic violence records, are automated. The Bureau of Justice Statistics would review a state’s 24-hour certification on an annual basis. The bill also adds new penalties for those who lie or illegally evade a background check.

Reed stated, “The FBI and ATF tell us again and again that terrorists, convicted felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited purchasers are taking advantage of the gun show loophole, but the gun lobby and their allies in Congress have done everything in their power to stop us from requiring background checks at these events.”

Said Lieberman, “Right now, convicted felons, spouse abusers, and a range of other prohibited buyers may purchase weapons at gun shows because the law does not require gun show background checks. Gun dealers and gun owners have rights. But they also have responsibilities. And making sure that criminals – or terrorists, even – aren’t able to purchase guns is one of them”

“The laws for purchasing firearms at gun shows or stores should be the same, “ Dewine stated, “We have the same responsibility to make sure that gun owners are qualified — regardless of where they buy their guns. This bill closes the gun show loophole in a way that respects the Second Amendment and honest, law-abiding Americans’ right to buy and sell guns and attend gun show.”

Under the 1993 Brady Act, firearms dealers licensed by the federal government must check the background of prospective buyers to ensure they are not felons, fugitives or others prohibited by law from possessing firearms. Firearms dealers must also keep records of the sales.

But these requirements apply only to licensed firearms dealers “engaged in the business” of selling firearms. The law does not apply to un-licensed individuals, who account for at least a quarter of the sellers at gun shows. As a result, criminals and others prohibited from buying or possessing guns seek out un-licensed sellers at gun shows to obtain weapons without a background check.

The McCain-Reed-DeWine-Lieberman legislation will close this dangerous loophole by requiring criminal background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows.

Since the Brady Law took effect in February 1994, background checks have stopped almost one million gun sales to prohibited purchasers.

So far, 18 states have closed this loophole and require background checks for all gun show sales, whether the gun dealer is a licensed seller or not. In 32 states, however, this loophole in the law remains open, making it easy for criminals to get guns at gun shows.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reported to Congress in 2000 that gun shows are a major gun trafficking channel responsible for more than 26,000 illegal firearms sales during an 18-month period. The arsenal of weapons and accessories available at these shows includes: cheaply made, poor quality handguns know as Saturday Night Specials, .50-caliber weapons, pre-ban assault rifles with high-capacity clips, laser sights and grenade launchers.