Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (MI-14), Bobby Scott (VA-3), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) heard testimony from law enforcement officials, victims of gun violence, and academic experts on the devastating effects of the Gun Show Loophole, a gap in federal law that allows private gun dealers to sell weapons to anyone--including terrorists, felons, and the mentally disabled--without performing background checks.
"It has been law in the United States since 1993 that there are three groups of people who should never be allowed to buy guns in this country: terrorists, felons, and the mentally ill," said Quigley. "Yet inexplicably any of them can walk into a gun show tomorrow and buy a firearm. Each gun sale performed without a background check in states like Indiana undermines law enforcement in Illinois, and contributes to the epidemic of illegal guns that is decimating our city."
According to the Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 55,000 illegally trafficked guns were linked to gun shows and flea markets in a two-year period. A survey conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz revealed 69 percent of National Rifle Association (NRA) members and 85 percent of non-NRA gun-owners support requiring criminal background checks on all purchasers at gun shows.
Representatives from the Illinois NRA were invited to the forum, but did not attend.
Added Conyers: "I commend my colleague, Representative Quigley, for convening this forum, as it comprehensively educated and informed citizens of the potential criminal dangers that result from this gun show loophole. As we have heard today, the lack of legal requirements placed on unlicensed firearms sellers at gun shows have been the cause of some of our country's deadliest school shootings. Always considering ways the Federal government can better fulfill its duty in protecting our citizens from crime, we simply cannot afford to allow this loophole to continue to exist while placing our precious children's lives at stake."
In Chicago, gun violence has ravaged neighborhoods across the city in recent years. Five hundred Chicago Public School students have been involved in a gun-related incident in the past two years, and 34 have lost their lives to gun violence.
The Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2009 was introduced with bipartisan support and now has 109 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. It has not been brought to the House floor for a vote, although earlier this summer a bill to help gun owners keep their firearms when declaring bankruptcy passed the House.
Panelists from the forum included Superintendent of Chicago Police, Jody Weis, as well as Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. Three of the four guns used in the Columbine school shooting were bought at a gun show. Guns used by the Pentagon shooter and by Nidal Hasan, the perpetrator of the Ft. Hood massacre, were also products of gun shows.
"Gun shows have been shown to be the source of many guns used in crimes, many of which were obtained by persons who could not legally purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer," said Scott. "The government has a responsibility to enforce public safety and protect its citizens from those who wish to obtain firearms illegally."
"Gun shows are notorious for their lack of regulation and are often the place where violent criminals obtain the firearms used to murder innocent people," added Schakowsky. "Unlicensed sellers turn a hefty profit at gun shows without having to check buyers' identification or keep records of their sales, and they have no way of running background checks. This lack of gun show regulation has proved to be deadly time and again. It's totally outrageous that such safety checks are required of licensed firearms sellers while the unlicensed sellers get a free pass, which too often results in homicide. I have long been a proponent of ending the scourge of gun violence that is of epidemic proportions in the Chicago area. Closing the gun show loophole is a key part of that effort."
Gun shows are firearm flea markets, where private citizens sell all types of guns from pistols to assault rifles. In 17 states sales at gun shows require a background check, while in 33 states the gun show loophole remains open.
Congressman Mike Quigley's Opening Statement at the Chicago Forum on the Gun Show Loophole
Aug. 19, 2010
Thank you everyone for being here. I know some of you traveled a long way and I thank you for
your efforts, your commitment to this issue, and I look forward to your testimony. I especially
want to thank the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers, for
joining us this morning, as well as Representatives Bobby Scott and Jan Schakowsky, who have
been fighting for common sense gun-control since long before I got to Washington.
I'd also like to note that we did extend an invitation to representatives of the NRA, but they
chose not to join us. When we think about the tragedies of gun violence, often our first thought
is why. Why did this happen? Why did a child, loved one, or innocent bystander have to lose a
But the more important question is how the perpetrators of these acts come to be in possession of deadly weapons. The answer in the case of the Columbine school shooting, last year's massacre at Fort Hood, this summer's shooting at the Pentagon, and countless more acts of violence across the country is the gun show loophole.
Gun shows are firearm flea markets, where private citizens sell all types of guns from pistols to
assault rifles. In 17 states, sales require a background check. In 33 states no background check
is required--and as you'll see today often times all that's needed to purchase a gun is a knowing
This lapse in gun control law is what is known as the gun show loophole. It is a threat to our
national security and the security of our cities' neighborhoods. It must be closed.
HR 2324, the Closing the Gun show Loophole Act, introduced by Representatives Carolyn
McCarthy and Mike Castle, currently has 109 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and
would do exactly that.
Closing the gun show loophole is not intended to end gun shows. Illinois, a state that closed its
loophole, has nearly 20 scheduled for the remainder of this year. Rather, it is in sync with the
Supreme Court's ruling that struck down Chicago's handgun ban earlier this summer.
The Court made a critical clarification, noting that the right to bear arms is indeed limited. The
Court reiterated that communities can keep guns away from schools, and out of the hands of
terrorists, felons, and the mentally ill. Yet, the gun show loophole makes a mockery of sensible
restrictions like these.
A gun show audit conducted by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's organization revealed
that 75 percent of sellers approached by investigators completed sales to people who admitted
they could not pass a background check. So it comes as no surprise that 30 percent of all
criminally trafficked firearms are bought and sold at gun shows.
Chicago, unfortunately, is no stranger to illegal guns and the communities they terrorize. The
numbers, in fact, are equally staggering and heartbreaking. Five hundred CPS students involved
in a gun-related incident the past two years, 34 killed by guns alone last year, and in a single
week this June, the city witnessed 60 shootings.
States that have not closed their loophole, like Indiana, are supplying guns to those that have
closed it. Indiana is scheduled to hold more than 75 guns shows this year; each sale performed
without a background check undermines Illinois law enforcement and contributes to the
epidemic of illegal guns that are decimating our city.
This is simply unacceptable. We are here today because reasonable minds on both sides of the
aisle feel that in their gut. Today, the rhetoric of Washington's gun lobbies must be recognized
for what it is: extremist.
And we must recognize the undeniable truth that came out of the Supreme Court's decision: with a clearly established right to own a gun in the home, no longer can reasonable gun control bills be mischaracterized as a movement toward the revocation of all gun rights. The slippery slope is now as flat as an Illinois cornfield.
It has been law in the United States since 1993 that there are three groups of people who should never be allowed to buy guns in this country: terrorists, felons, and the mentally ill. Yet,
inexplicably, any of them can walk into a gun show tomorrow and buy a firearm. Regardless of whether you think no one should own a gun or you sleep with a shotgun under our pillow, I am certain that we can agree on a few core principles: that we need to make sure terrorists like Nidal Hasan, mentally ill individuals like the Virginia Tech shooter, and the Hezbollah member and convicted felon who bought a firearm on September 10, 2001, can't have access to guns.
As Tom Vandermyde of the Illinois NRA put it: "No one wants bad guys walking around with
This is a policy that mainstream America supports. Eighty-seven percent of Americans want the
gun show loophole closed. A poll last year by Republican pollster Frank Lutz even found 69
percent of NRA members support closing the loophole.
If we as Americans agree on this, then why have we failed to change a policy that perpetuates
senseless violence? We need to reconcile policy with common-sense. When terrorists aren't
allowed on an airplane but we invite them to buy an AK 47, there is ample room for
The onus now lies with Congress to forge a new path, to reclaim the middle ground on gun
control and pass responsible gun laws that make us more safe and more free.