STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
Mr. DEWINE. Mr. President, I rise today as an original co-sponsor of the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2003. I would like to thank Senators MCCAIN, LIEBERMAN and REED for also sponsoring this common sense piece of legislation that aims to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and out of the hand of kids. It is a good billan important bill.
Gun ownership rights are clearly established in the United States Constitution. And, I am a firm supporter of the Second Amendment. I also strongly believe that we have an obligation to protect the safety of law-abiding citizens and the safety of our most precious resource, our children.
As a former county prosecutor, I learned that the best way to reduce the illegal and often fatal use of guns is to pass and enforce tough laws that severely punish criminals who use them. That is why I consistently have supported measures that keep firearms from getting into the wrong hands in the first place and that increase the punishment of those who use firearms in the commission of a crime. The Gun Show Loophole Closing Act helps achieve that goal.
Under the existing Brady law, when a purchaser buys a gun from a licensed dealer, he or she must undergo a background check through the Federal Government's National Instant Criminal Background Check System ("NICS"), into which States feed records of certain criminals and others not qualified to own a gun. NICS has up to three days to inform the dealer as to whether the buyer is qualified to purchase a gun. If the dealer receives no response by the end of the three-day period, the dealer is allowed to the sell the gun to that buyer. Ninety-five percent of NICS checks, however, do not take three days. They come up with an instant or near instant response.
This bill we are introducing today simply applies the same common-sense checks to gun show sales. Right now, there is no statute requiring that all sellers at gun shows run NICS checks on potential gun buyers; however, according to Federal officials, gun shows are the second leading source of illegal guns recovered from gun trafficking investigations. By leaving this loophole openby not requiring all gun show sellers to run NICS checkswe are presenting gun traffickers and other criminals with a prime opportunity to acquire firearms. This is terrifying and this is unacceptable. Only last week, Federal authorities arrested a Georgia man who sold large quantities of firearms at Georgia gun shows. These firearms have been recovered in subsequent crimes in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and here in Washington, DC.
Furthermore, following the attacks on September 11th, it came to light that Al Qaeda produced a handbook in which it advised terrorists to purchase firearms at gun shows in the United States. In fact, at least three suspected terrorists have exploited this loophole to acquire firearms. Therefore, it is imperative, now more than ever, to enact legislation to protect our citizens from this potential area of terrorist exploitation.
This bill is common sense. The laws for purchasing firearms at gun shows and stores should be the same. We have the same responsibility to make sure that gun owners are qualifiedregardless of where they buy their guns. This bill closes the gun show loophole in a way that respects the Second Amendment and honest, law-abiding Americans' right to buy and sell guns and attend gun shows. That's good law. That's good policy. That's why we should pass this bill.