McCain, Lieberman Want Background Checks on Private Gun Sales

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

(Editor's note: 1st add includes more information on the McCain-Lieberman bill as well as comments by the Gun Owners of America and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.)
( - "With rights come responsibilities," said Sen. John McCain Tuesday, as he and Sen. Joseph Lieberman introduced a bill that would "stop criminals from evading background checks at guns shows."

"Despite the tragic lessons we have learned, it is still far too easy for a convicted felon to buy firearms at a gun show," said McCain (R-Ariz.).

McCain and Lieberman said they have "many areas of agreement" with the White House and other members of Congress: "We all agree that the laws on the books should be enforced and we all agree that convicted felons shouldn't be able to get guns," said Lieberman. "The bill we are introducing today would write both of those principles into law."

The term "gun show loophole" is used to describe sales of weapons between private individuals. Whereas gun retailers - people who are federally licensed to sell firearms - are required by law to conduct criminal background checks, private individuals selling personal property are not required to conduct such checks, although it is against the law for an individual to knowingly sell a firearm to a felon.

The McCain-Lieberman bill would require background checks on all transactions at gun shows and other public events where at least 75 guns are available for sale.

For the first three years, the bill requires a complete criminal history background check for all shows with a three-day waiting period. After that time, gun shows would be able to cut the waiting period down to 24 hours - provided they have certified to the Attorney General that their records are sufficiently automated to keep criminals from getting guns - as well as receive additional state funding to improve their criminal history records to make background checks faster and more accurate than they are now.

Gun-control opponents scoffed at the McClain-Lieberman bill, saying it's the latest in a laundry list of ineffective anti-gun legislation.

"The problem the gun banners have is that criminals aren't going to be deterred by one more law, just like they weren't deterred by the last 20,000," said Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America.

Another gun-rights group says a 1998 Justice Department study revealed less than 2 percent of guns used to commit crimes were bought at gun shows.

"The whole concept of a gun show loophole is a myth," said Joe Waldron, the executive director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. correspondent Seth Lewis contributed to this report.