Six Months Since Columbine, Gun Safety Legislation
Still Stalled in Congress|
October 20 marked the six
month anniversary of the tragic school shooting at Columbine High School
in Colorado which shocked the nation: The day came and went with Congress
still failing to approve any gun safety legislation.
The House and Senate
conference committee on juvenile justice legislation (HR 1501) has not
reported a final bill. The Senate version of the bill contains gun safety
reforms supported by The U.S. Conference of Mayors, while the House
version contains no such provisions.
Debate between the House and
Senate centers on the issue of background checks at gun show. Under
current law, non-licensed private sellers of guns are not required to
conduct Brady background checks on purchasers of weapons at gun shows and
other such venues. The Senate provision would require that all sellers of
weapons at gun shows be required to conduct a background check, and would
provide up to three business days to conduct the check if needed.
(See box on page 6 for list of
persons prohibited under federal law from purchasing a weapon.)
While 75 percent of all
background checks are completed within 30 seconds and 95 percent within 2
hours, when a check cannot be completed within 24 hours, the individual
being checked is nearly 20 times more likely to be a felon or other
prohibited buyer than the average purchaser according to federal
The House negotiators are
arguing for a gun show provision which would allow as little as 24 hours
for background checks, and apply this limitation to both non-licensed and
licensed dealers, which would be a major weakening of current law.
Also at issue in the
conference committee is the minimum size of a gun show to be covered and
procedures for maintaining records of those checks.
In addition to closing the gun
show loophole, the Senate bill includes:
Gun Lawsuits Lead to
While Congress continues to
debate gun safety provisions, other important developments have taken
place, several of which appear to have come in response to lawsuits filed
against the gun industry by cities and counties across the country.
First, Coltís Manufacturing
has announced that is will stop producing less-expensive civilian handguns
and spin off its smart-gun project into a new company, iColt.
Second, Smith and Wesson
Corp., the countyís leading handgun manufacturer, will now require
dealers to sign a code of ethics regarding the sale and distribution of
A letter was mailed in
mid-July to 3,500 registered dealers giving them 60 days (which has been
extended 30 more days) to pledge that they would avoid sales practices
that facilitate the illegal flow of weapons to young people and criminals.
Dealers are also required to provide proof that their federal licenses are
up to date, as well as other information to show that they are legitimate.
The company has said that
dealers who refuse to sign or are accused of abetting illegal sales will
be banned from selling Smith and Wesson products.
In addition to the above
actions by gun companies, United Parcel Service (UPS), the nationís
largest shipper of handguns, will stop ground delivery of the weapons to
reduce the risk of theft by employees. The company will ship handguns only
through its Next Day Air service. Packages sent by air spend less time in
transit and are handled by fewer people. Federal Express has been shipping
handguns only by air for 20 years, and the U.S. Postal Service ships guns
only to police agencies.