Leadership Promises Action on Gun Safety Provisions After
Senate Reversal on Gun Show Loophole
Debate on juvenile justice legislation has moved to the House, with Republican leaders indicating a new willingness to move on some legislation designed to increase gun safety and reduce the illegal availability of guns.
House action comes following extensive Senate debate on juvenile justice legislation (S 254) eventually approved by a vote of 73-25.
Approval of the bill came only after a stunning vote in which Vice President Al Gore broke a 50-50 tie to close the gun show loophole.
The loophole currently allows non-licensed gun show participants to evade federal requirements that apply to a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL)-identification checks, Brady criminal background checks and recording keeping requirements including filing multiple purchase forms.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors strongly supports closing this loophole as part of a package of gun safety initiatives.
Approval of an amendment by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) to close the gun show loophole came after extensive maneuvering on the Senate floor. Following the initial defeat of the Lautenberg Amendment by a vote of 51-47, the Senate passed an amendment by Sen. Larry Craig (ID) which only called for voluntary gun show checks, restored the ability of felons to recover their guns from pawn-shops without an instant background check, allowed licensed gun dealers to sell and transfer guns at out-of-state gun shows, and limited the ability of law enforcement to trace guns sold at gun shows and then used in crimes.
There was also serious concern that, depending upon interpretation, the Craig Amendment could have protected "special registrants" who perform background checks at gun shows from any civil liability for any negligence in selling guns.
Following an outcry against the Craig Amendment, Sen. Craig and Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) tried several attempts to end the debate by approving modifying amendments, all of which left serious loopholes in place and weakened existing laws.
In the end, a slightly modified version of the original Lautenberg Amendment was approved on the Vice Presidents tie-breaking vote.
In addition to closing the gun show loophole, the Senate approved the following gun safety provisions:
Despite previous opposition to gun safety provisions, both House Speaker Dennis Hastert (IL) and Judiciary Committee Chair Henry Hyde (IL) have said that they will support the Senate-passed measures as part of the House juvenile justice bill (HR 1501) which is heading to the House floor in June.
Hastert also indicated his support for increasing the minimum legal age for purchasing a handgun or semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21 years of age, a provision not contained in the Senate bill.
The House bill is scheduled for full Judiciary Committee and then floor action in mid-June. House Democrats tried unsuccessfully to push for immediate action on the gun safety provisions before the House adjourned for its Memorial Day Recess.