Columbine Anniversary Sees Push to Close Gun Show 'Loophole'

Senator Lautenberg is proposing a bill to broaden the law on background checks.


By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

With the anniversaries of the Virginia Tech massacre and Columbine shootings in the news, Sen. Frank Lautenberg will push again Tuesday to close the so-called gun show loophole that lets some gun sales go through without background checks of the buyers. In a statement to Whispers, Lautenberg said: "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. My legislation would require background checks for every gun purchased at every gun show across America and would keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. Without this change in the law, anyone—from felons to fugitives—can buy a gun at a gun show, no questions asked. That needs to change."

His legislation is very similar to a past amendment that was approved in the Senate as part of a juvenile justice bill but killed in conference. According to a Lautenberg spokesman, the legislation would define gun shows subject to doing background checks as those where 50 or more firearms are offered or exhibited for sale. That would broaden the reach of the background check law to flea markets and swap meets. Gun show promoters would also have to register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. All transactions at gun shows would have to go through a federally licensed arms dealer who would be responsible for conducting a background check. And the information on the sales and the guns—but not the buyers—would be registered. The licensed seller would keep information about the buyer. That information could be requested if a firearm sold by the licensed seller was involved in a crime. The goal, said a Lautenberg aide, is to end the sales of guns to criminals, terrorists, and the mentally ill.

About 75 percent of sales go though licensed sellers. The Lautenberg legislation will most likely face opposition. Congressional sources said today that the National Rifle Association and others are seeking sponsors for pro-gun legislation. Read the bill here.


TO PUSH FOR CLOSING OF GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE WASHINGTON , D.C. - On Tuesday, April 21 at 11 a.m., Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) will join with other Senators, shooting victims and Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence 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 bill would help keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, the mentally ill and gun traffickers by requiring background checks on all sales at gun shows. 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 sellers at "gun shows" without going through any background check.

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 Al President Gore casting the tiebreaking vote.  However, the gun lobby killed the legislation in House-Senate conference. 

The ATF reports that between 25 to 50 percent of firearm vendors at gun shows are unlicensed. 


U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Other Senators
Shooting Victims
Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence   WHERE:                                          

EPW Committee Hearing Room
SD-406  WHEN:

Tuesday, April 21 11 a.m. Follow Paul and Nikki on Twitter.

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