WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today joined Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and victims and family members of the Virginia Tech tragedy, to introduce legislation to close the nation's "gun show loophole." The bill introduction follows the tenth anniversary of the Columbine tragedy and the second anniversary of the tragedy at Virginia Tech this week. The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
"There is no rational reason to oppose closing the loophole. The reason it's still not closed is simple: the continuing power of the special interest gun lobby in Washington," Senator Frank R. Lautenberg said. "My legislation would require background checks for every gun purchased at every gun show across America and would help keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Without this change in the law, anyone - from felons to terrorists to fugitives - can buy a gun at a gun show, no questions asked. That needs to change."
The Senators' bill would close the loophole by requiring background checks on all sales at gun shows. The bill defines a gun show as any event where 50 or more guns are offered or exhibited for sale. In addition, the bill would require:
• gun show promoters to register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), maintain a list of vendors at all gun shows and ensure that all vendors acknowledge receipt of information about their legal obligations.
• Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to submit information, including the manufacturer/importer, model and serial number of firearms transferred at gun shows to the ATF's National Tracing Center (NTC). No personal information about either the seller or the purchaser would be given to the ATF. Instead, as under current law, FFLs would maintain personal information in their files. The National Tracing Center would request personal information from an FFL only if a firearm becomes the subject of a law enforcement trace request.
"As someone who served in the Army, I have great respect for firearms and responsible gun ownership. The Gun Show Background Check Act is a responsible and common sense approach to preventing firearms from winding up in the hands of criminals and straw purchasers," said Senator Jack Reed. "This legislation is critical to making our communities safer, which is why it is strongly supported by law enforcement officers nationwide. Passing this bill would help prevent the killing of innocent people, and it would do so without infringing on anyone's right to own a gun."
"We don't need any more evidence that a gun in the hands of the wrong person is a real threat to our schools, our families, and our communities. Allowing sales at gun shows without identification, without accountability and without knowing whether the buyer is a felon or mentally ill, is unacceptable," Senator Feinstein said. "This legislation proposes common sense protections that do not limit the rights of law abiding citizens to own and purchase guns."
"Closing this long-standing, flagrant, irresponsible and increasingly dangerous loophole in federal gun laws will make gun show transactions safer for all our people, and it's urgently needed. It makes absolutely no sense to tolerate this loophole that allows criminals and terrorists to buy guns at gun shows and avoid the minimal federal regulations that now exist. I commend Senator Lautenberg for introducing this bill, and I look forward to its enactment into law as soon as possible. Too many lives are in danger for Congress to delay any longer," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
"Ten years after two dangerous young men used gun show guns to kill and maim, it is way past time to extend the successful Brady background check system in America to gun sales at gun shows," said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "There is no rational reason why as a nation we should not do this. I want to applaud Senator Frank Lautenberg for championing this bill to close the gun show loophole."
The victims and families of the Virginia Tech tragedy joining the members for the announcement included Omar Samaha, the brother of Reema Samaha, and his father Joe. Omar's sister Reema was one of 32 victims who were shot and killed at Virginia Tech. Omar was recently followed by ABC News into a gun show where he was able to purchase ten guns, in under an hour, with no questions asked.
"My sister Reema was shot and killed at Virginia Tech because of a loophole with the background check system for gun purchases. Ever since April 16th I have been working to fix problems with America's gun background check system - and the gun show loophole is the most outrageous gap. It's time for Congress to step up and require background checks for all sales at guns shows," Omar Samaha, the brother of Reema Samaha, said.
"A national law to close the gun show loop hole will prevent guns from falling into the hands of felons, domestic abusers and the mentally adjudicated. This piece of valuable legislation must be enacted to protect the citizens of this country," Suzanne Grimes said. Suzanne is the mother of Virginia Tech survivor Kevin Sterne. An Eagle Scout, Kevin saved his own life by putting a tourniquet on himself to stop the bleeding after being shot in his femoral artery.
In 1993, the Brady Law was passed requiring prospective purchasers of guns sold by federal firearms licensees, like gun shops and pawn shops, to go through a background check. However, a loophole in current law allows people to purchase guns from unlicensed dealers at gun shows without going through a background check. The ATF reports that between 25 to 50 percent of firearm vendors at gun shows are unlicensed.
As a result of this loophole, convicted felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, the mentally ill and other people who are prohibited by federal law from owning guns are able to purchase firearms at gun shows. For example, the two teenagers who shot and killed 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in 1999 used guns obtained from gun shows.
In 1999, Sen. Lautenberg introduced the first bill in Congress to close the gun show loophole. Later that year, in the wake of the Columbine tragedy, the Senate passed Sen. Lautenberg's legislation to close the gun show loophole as an amendment to a juvenile justice bill. The legislation passed by one vote, with Vice President Gore casting the tiebreaking vote. However, the gun lobby killed the legislation in House-Senate conference.
GUN SHOW BACKGROUND CHECK ACT OF 2009 FACT SHEET
At thousands of gun shows every year, people are able to purchase firearms without going through a background check. Under the federal Brady Act, Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) are required to check the purchaser's background with the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before transferring any firearm. However, a person does not need a federal firearms license—and the Brady Act does not apply—if the person is not "engaged in the business" of selling firearms pursuant to federal law. These non-licensees make up one quarter or more of the sellers of firearms at gun shows. Consequently, felons, the severely mentally ill, and other prohibited persons who want to avoid Brady Act checks and records of their purchases are able to buy firearms at gun shows. The Gun Show Background Check Act of 2009 will close this loophole in our federal gun laws.
The bill is virtually identical to the Lautenberg amendment passed by the Senate in the 106th Congress as part of the Juvenile Justice bill. The legislation would take several steps to make gun show transactions safer for all Americans:
• DEFINITION OF GUN SHOWS: Gun shows are defined to include any event at which 50 or more firearms are offered or exhibited for sale. This definition includes not only those events where firearms are the main commodity sold, but also other events where a significant number of guns are sold, such as flea markets or swap meets.
• GUN SHOW PROMOTERS: Gun show promoters would be required to register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), maintain a list of vendors at all gun shows, and ensure that all vendors acknowledge receipt of information about their legal obligations.
• BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR ALL TRANSACTIONS: The bill requires that all firearms sales at gun shows go through a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). If a non-licensed person is selling a weapon, they would use an FFL at the gun show to complete the transaction. The FFL would be responsible for conducting a Brady check on the purchaser and maintaining records of the transaction.
• IMPROVED FIREARM TRACING: FFLs would be required to submit information including the manufacturer/importer, model, and serial number of firearms transferred at gun shows to the ATF's National Tracing Center (NTC). However, no personal information about either the seller or the purchaser would be given to the ATF. Instead, as under current law, FFLs would maintain this information in their files. The NTC would request this personal information from an FFL only in the event that a firearm subsequently becomes the subject of a law enforcement trace request.