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Exemption to S. 1805

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I spoke earlier today in favor of an amendment we have offered which the Senator from New York is talking about; that is, the assault weapon ban. It is a very simple amendment. I don't intend to talk about it this evening other than to say this is merely a reiteration of status quo-a law that has been on the books now for 10 years, and a law that has the support of law enforcement officers across this country. It is the right thing to do from a law enforcement point of view. This Congress should in fact continue this law in effect. This is truly a law enforcement vote. I commend my colleague from New York for his comments.

Let me speak tonight about three different items.

First, very briefly, I would like to support the Levin amendment which will be voted on tomorrow. I thank my colleague from Michigan for his leadership on this issue. His amendment is a simple, modest amendment. It would merely allow injured victims to bring cases of gross negligence or recklessness against irresponsible gun dealers without the unreasonable restrictions of the gun liability bill that is in front of us. That is fair. It is justice.

I have already spoken about what I consider to be the drastic attack the underlying bill makes on ordinary negligence cases and on this select group of victims in our society. It is wrong. As my colleagues know, cases of gross negligence or recklessness require even greater wrongdoing by irresponsible people before liability can be found. This amendment merely restores the ability of parties injured as a result of gross negligence or recklessness to have their day in court. I implore my colleagues in the Senate when Senator Levin's amendment is offered tomorrow to vote in favor of it.

I rise this evening also in support of Senator McCain's amendment which will also be voted on tomorrow. This amendment is known as the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2003. Senators LIEBERMAN, REED, and myself are the original cosponsors of this commonsense amendment, an amendment that aims to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and out of the hands of children.

The United States Constitution guarantees the rights of gun owners. We all believe strongly in the second amendment. As a former prosecutor in Greene County, Ohio, I have learned the best way to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and reducing illegal and often fatal use of guns is to pass and enforce tough laws that severely punish criminals who use them. I have tried to do that throughout my legislative career.

I have consistently supported measures to keep firearms from getting into the wrong hands and efforts that increase the punishment of those who use firearms in the commission of a crime. I believe the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act helps achieve this goal.

For the most part, our current system is working. Under the existing Brady bill, 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, or NICS, into which States feed records of certain criminals and others not qualified to own a gun. NICS has up to 3 days to inform the dealer as to whether the buyer is qualified to purchase a gun. But 95 percent of these checks come up with an instant or near instant response allowing or disallowing the purchase immediately. So a decision can be made. The person can get their gun.

This amendment simply applies the same commonsense check to all gun show sales. Right now, there is no statute requiring that all sellers at gun shows run these checks on potential gun buyers. Yet according to Federal officials, gun shows are the second leading source of illegal guns recovered from gun trafficking investigations.

By leaving this loophole open, by not requiring all gun show sellers to run NICS checks, we are presenting gun traffickers and other criminals with a prime opportunity to acquire firearms. This is terrifying. This is unacceptable. In common language, we have a situation where someone can walk into a gun show, look around, look for a licensed firearm dealer, and find a firearm dealer. If they buy a gun from that person, there will be a check run. But if they do not want a check run on them, all they have to do is find someone at the gun show who is not a licensed firearm dealer. At most gun shows they can find that person. They just have to look around. They will find them. Guess what. They do not have to have a check run.

If you are a criminal, if you have a felony conviction, or worse yet, if you are a terrorist, you go to a gun show and you find someone who is not a registered firearm dealer and you buy their gun and there is no check done. That is a classic definition or classic example of a loophole.

Following the attacks on September 11, for example, news reports suggested that al-Qaida produced a handbook in which it advised terrorists to purchase firearms at gun shows in the United States. Other media reports indicate that suspected terrorists have exploited this loophole to acquire firearms. It is imperative now, more than ever, to enact legislation to protect our citizens from this potential area of terrorist exploitation.

This amendment is simply common sense. Regardless of where firearms are purchased, whether at a gun shop or a gun show, the laws should be the same. It seems silly if you go to a gun show to buy a gun, the determination as to whether you will have to undergo a background check is wholly dependent upon how you purchase a gun; that is, you could buy a gun from one seller and be subjected to the government's Brady check. But if you walk a few feet away, you can find another seller, give them some cash, they would be willing to give you a gun, and that gun would not be subject to a check and that seller would not be subject to a check. You would walk away with a gun and totally be unchecked. Don't we think that criminals know this? Of course they know it.

It is like having a metal detector at the front entrance of our building but leaving the back door wide open for anyone to pass through. Don't we think that under that circumstance, someone with nefarious intentions would simply use the back entrance? That would make our attempt at security completely illusory. Indeed, not only would there be no greater security whatever, we would be paying a lot of money to do absolutely nothing, nothing other than giving hard-working Americans a false sense of security. That certainly makes no sense and would not under those circumstances.

That is the exact same thing that is going on with the gun show loophole. People with these nefarious intentions know they have a back door to getting guns without any threat of a background check. Thus, this Government, spending millions of dollars on a sophisticated system of background checks to check the background of people who voluntarily choose to be checked, they go in, buy the gun, they voluntarily choose to be checked, but the system totally misses those who, with very little effort, choose to evade it.

That is a waste of the American people's money. At the same time, it gives them a false sense of security. We need to provide the American people with the security they deserve and for which they are already paying. This amendment, the McCain amendment, that we will vote on tomorrow, closes the gun show loophole in a way that respects the second amendment and also respects an honest law-abiding American's right to buy and sell guns and to attend gun shows. That is good law. It is good policy. It makes good common sense. That is why I support this amendment and urge my colleagues to join me tomorrow.

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