FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDAG
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16, 1999(202) 616-2777
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
STATEMENT BY DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC H. HOLDER, JR.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. today held a press conference to urge Members of Congress to adopt reasonable gun legislation. He issued the following statement.
"Good Afternoon. We are here today because the House of Representatives has begun debate on legislation that can make a critical difference to law enforcement, and to the safety of all Americans.
"Today Individual Members of Congress have a clear-cut choice to make. Either they can cave in to the narrow, special interests that value the cold, hard steel of guns more than the lives of children, neighbors and police officers, or they can fulfill the mandate of the broad majority of the American public by supporting a reasonable, common sense bill that would make all of us safer from armed criminals. The choice for each House Member is just that stark.
"As most of you know, I have served as a judge, as the chief prosecutor for the District of Columbia, and for the past two years as the Deputy Attorney General of the United States. I know the harm that guns can do - to individuals, to families, and to communities. My concern about easy access to guns in our society is built on my professional experience and the tragedies I have encountered in my work day life. But even more important, I am a father, and I want to be sure that we here in Washington do everything we can -- everything in our power -- to make our communities, our schools and our nation a safer place for our kids.
"Five years ago, Congress came together in a bipartisan way and passed one of the most important gun control measures ever -- the Brady bill. Yesterday, the President announced that since this law went into effect, more than 400,000 criminals and others who are not legally eligible to have guns, have been stopped from buying guns.
"Four hundred thousand. That's a lot of guns. Particularly if those guns were in the hands of fugitives or felons.
"But while the Brady law has done a lot to make this country safer, the law has a dangerous loophole that criminals and others who cannot legally buy guns at a licenced gun shop exploit. While everyone who buys a gun through a licenced dealer must undergo a background check to determine if they are eligible to buy a gun, the current law allows unlicenced sellers at gun shows to sell to anyone -- with no questions asked.
"It's not hard to see what kind of message that sends to criminals.
"But it is hard for me to believe that any reasonable person -- including those who serve in Congress -- could oppose taking the simple step necessary to close that gap.
"Last month the Senate passed a bill that does close the loophole. And this week the House has an opportunity to join them in this very logical decision.
"This should be an easy decision. But for many Members it will not be, because of the pressure they are under from the NRA. We must urge Congress to resist the gun lobby's pressure to vote for the sham gun control being pressed on the House.
"This bill does nothing to plug the gaping loophole in the Brady law. In fact, it actually creates new loopholes and weakens the protections currently in place. Let me give you a couple of examples of what's wrong with it:
"The bill would narrow the definition of gun show to exclude many events where large numbers of guns are sold, such as flea markets.
"Even worse -- for the events that it does cover, the bill weakens the current law by cutting down the amount of time law enforcement has to complete pre-sale background checks, from 3 working days to 72 hours.
"Let me be clear about what this means.
"For approximately 73 percent of gun buyers, a background check is completed and they are allowed to buy their gun within minutes, and 95 percent of all buyers have had their check completed within two hours.
"But for the tiny percentage of buyers, for whom the Instant Check System receives a "hold" message, more time is needed. This is because court records are needed to provide additional information -- and those court records sometimes can take days to access. They certainly cannot be accessed on weekends when most shows take place. And we know that those purchasers who do not receive a quick go-ahead are more likely to turn out to be prohibited purchasers. In fact, data from the FBI's national instant check system shows that Saturday gun buyers whose check cannot be completed in 24 hours are twenty times more likely to be prohibited people than the average gun buyer.
"The FBI has also estimated the impact a 72-hour limit would have had if it had been in place over the last 6 months, and the results are chilling. If Law Enforcement had had 72 hours instead of three working days, more than 9,000 felons and other prohibited purchasers would have gotten guns.
"Another recently offered amendment is even worse. It cuts the time to 24 hours, which translates to 17,000 prohibited purchasers who would not have been stopped from buying deadly weapons in the last six months.
"And let me tell you who just a few of these people were: Among those stopped were a convicted murderer in Texas; a rapist in Wisconsin; a convicted child molester, and a person currently under indictment for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
"Had a 24-hour limit been in place, each one of these dangerous criminals would have slipped through the system and would have been sold a gun.
"I don't know about you, but I sure wouldn't want to have to tell the parent of a child lost to gun violence that the purchaser of the gun used in the crime could have been stopped from buying the gun -- if only law enforcement had had another day to pull their record -- or, if only the dealer at the gun show had been required to run a background check.
"It's these parents that Congress should think about while considering the legislation before them.
"Over the past two months we have heard from the American people that they want those of us in Washington to lead -- and to pass real measures that protect our communities, and that protect our kids.
"We saw this in the bi-partisan support the Senate received for the common sense measures it passed last month.
"The House now has the option to consider an equally sensible bill. Representatives McCarthy, Roukema and Blagojevich have offered a bi-partisan amendment that is based upon the Senate-passed gun show measures, but has been modified specifically to address concerns expressed by some who thought the Senate provisions went too far.
"It closes the gun show loophole but does nothing that would present any obstacle to law-abiding citizens seeking to purchase guns at a gun show or anywhere else.
"This is not about politics -- partisan or otherwise. And this should not be about narrow, misguided special interests. This is about public safety and our children. I call upon those Members in the House to talk to the families that have been ripped apart by violence and to reflect on the opportunity they now have to stop other families from experiencing similar tragedies."