Return of Lautenberg “Lite”: McCain-Lieberman Weakens Current Law While Purporting to Close the Gun Show Loophole


Lautenberg (S. 254, 106th Congress) and Reed bill (S. 767, 107thCongress) Proposed McCain-Lieberman compromise Does compromise weaken current law? Why it makes a difference
Defines “gun show” as an event where 50 or more guns are offered for sale. Defines “gun show” as an event where there are 75 or more guns except when the guns are part of a “personal collection” and the person is not required to be licensed. Yes. Under current law, there is no exemption for a “personal collection” of up to 75 guns. McCain-Lieberman would create a de facto exemption for private vendors who run gun shows out of their home calling it a sale from their “personal collection.” Because the requirements for being licensed are so vague, this new numerical threshold could be interpreted to create a 75 gun exception.
Applies current Brady Law which gives law enforcement up to 3 business days to complete background checks. Would shorten the time period for background checks from 3 business days to 24 hours for gun show checks by unlicensed sellers after three years if certain conditions are met. Technically, no. But the shorter time would apply only to sales by unlicensed sellers. It makes no sense to have a shorter time for checks for sales made by unlicensed sellers versus sales by licensed dealers. If anything NICS needs more, not less time to complete background checks. When a transaction is delayed more than 24 hours, the purchaser is 20 times more likely to be prohibited. In fact, the FBI estimates that if it only had 24 hours to complete background checks, more than 33,000 additional felons, fugitives, stalkers and other prohibited purchasers would have been able to buy guns. These purchases would be denied under the Reed 3 business-day rule.
Establishes uniform federal standard for all background checks at gun shows, allowing up to 3 business days for law enforcement to complete checks in the 5 percent of cases where there is a question about the purchaser’s eligibility that can’t be answered within 24 hours. Creates different sets of rules for gun show background checks depending on who’s selling the gun, the state where the gun is being sold, and the state where a record about a buyer is kept. Technically, no. However, there is certain to be significant confusion when law enforcement tries to figure out whether they have 24 hours or 3 business days to finish checks. McCain-Lieberman would create a patchwork of rules that will promote gun trafficking between states. This is because the 24-hour rule for background checks would apply in some states and not others. As Americans for Gun Safety stated in its gun show report, states with weaker restrictions at gun shows provide a source of gun trafficking to states with stricter laws. Criminals can take advantage of the shorter background checks in some states to get guns that they would be prohibited from acquiring if law enforcement had 3 business days to finish a background check.
Gives equal priority to all background checks regardless of where the sale takes place. Gives special priority to background checks at gun shows. Yes, in the sense that it would encourage buyers to shop at gun shows rather than gun stores. There is no basis for preferring gun show checks over gun store checks. 72 percent of all background checks are completed instantly. The ones that take more than 24 hours require more research, which cannot be begun, much less completed, until the state court or other record repositories are open, usually not until the Monday following the gun show.