For Release: Tuesday, May 15, 2001
Bill Undermines and Weakens Federal Brady Law
Washington, DC – The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released the following statement by Public Policy Director Joe Sudbay in opposition to the McCain-Lieberman Gun Show Loophole Closing and Gun Law Enforcement Act of 2001, introduced today by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT):
The goal of closing the gun show loophole is to ensure that felons, domestic abusers, and other prohibited persons cannot purchase firearms from private individuals at gun shows without background checks. Unfortunately, the McCain-Lieberman bill draws on gun lobby proposals from 1999 that actually undermine and weaken the federal Brady law. [An analysis of the bill is available on the VPC’s web site located at www.vpc.org.]
The McCain-Lieberman bill would create a weaker background check at gun shows for unlicensed sellers, while at the same time giving priority to checks at gun shows. In addition, the bill creates a new class of gun seller, “special firearm event licensees,” based on a concept first promoted by NRA Board Member and U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID). This idea was soundly and uniformly rejected by gun control organizations and Congressional gun control leaders in 1999. In addition, the bill could weaken state laws that currently rely on the federal background check provision for all gun show sales, such as New York.
In promoting the bill, Americans for Gun Safety, the organization founded by Internet billionaire Andrew McKelvey and the motivator behind the McCain-Lieberman bill, promised a “third way” on gun control, a so-called centrist approach that would draw supporters of gun control and the National Rifle Association alike. But so far the list of supporters does not include pro-gun legislators. As a result, instead of negotiating with the pro-gun lobby, gun control advocates are compromising with themselves, settling for less while the NRA stands firm. The “third way” is both bad policy and bad politics.
Experience shows that the when it comes to crafting gun control laws, simpler is better. This leaves less room for pro-gun advocates to exploit loopholes and undermine existing law. And it should never be forgotten that U.S. Attorney General and NRA Member John Ashcroft would have the final say in deciding how McCain-Lieberman would operate in the real world. Recognizing this, the Violence Policy Center supports legislation, S. 767, introduced by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI). S. 767 would extend the current instant check law to all sales at gun shows and actually close the gun show loophole.