Press Releases

Carper Votes To Close Gun Show Loophole, Extend Assault Weapons Ban

Amendments Attached to Broad Gun Liability Bill, Which Failed to Pass

Mar 02 2004

WASHINGTON (March 2, 2004) – Calling them examples of "common-sense gun reform," Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today voted with the majority of the Senate in approving legislation to close the so-called "gun show loophole" and extend a 10-year ban on assault weapons. The Senate approved the gun show loophole legislation on a 53-46 vote, while the assault weapons ban passed on a 52-47 vote. Both bills were attached to a measure that would broadly prohibit civil suits against negligent gun dealers and manufacturers. The future of such legislation, however, was thrown in doubt late Tuesday afternoon after the Senate failed to pass the gun liability bill over the objections of both Democrats and Republicans. "I support the Second Amendment. I support the rights of law-abiding citizens to buy and own guns, but I also support common-sense efforts to keep handguns and automatic weapons out of the hands of criminals," said Carper about his support for closing the gun show loophole and extending the assault weapons ban. Under federal law, licensed gun dealers must perform criminal background checks at gun shows, but unlicensed gun sellers are not required to do so. The legislation that passed Tuesday would close that loophole and require background checks for all gun show sales. Currently, Delaware is one of 33 states that does not require all gun sellers to perform background checks at gun shows. "It's never made much sense to me that a criminal can go to a gun show and be lawfully denied a gun by one seller but then turn around and buy a gun from someone else who's not required to perform a background check," said Carper. Carper said technology now allows 91 percent of background checks to be completed in less than five minutes. "Ten years ago, it may have been impractical to conduct background checks at gun shows, but today's technology allows us to be fair to legitimate gun dealers and buyers, while remaining vigilant in our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals," said Carper. The assault weapons ban would extend for 10 years a prohibition on manufacturing, selling or owning semi-automatic assault weapons as well as large capacity magazines capable of holding more than 10 round of ammunition. The ban would apply to certain named firearms, such as the AK-47, Uzi, and the Street Sweeper, as well as military-type hardware such as flash suppressors and grenade launchers. "These kinds of weapons serve no legitimate hunting or sporting purpose and should be banned," said Carper. The gun show and assault weapons bills were attached to legislation that would grant the firearms industry broad immunity from civil lawsuits. Although Carper praised the inclusion of the gun show loophole legislation and assault weapons ban, he voted against the gun liability bill because it would unfairly prohibit civil suits against manufacturers and dealers who act negligently and irresponsibly. "The gun liability bill would strip away the legal rights of victims, including law enforcement officials and their families, to seek civil damages against irresponsible gun dealers and manufacturers," said Carper. That bill failed, 8-90, thanks in part to Republican dissatisfaction over the inclusion of the gun show and assault weapons amendments. It's unclear when the bill might come up again for a vote. President Bush has previously said he would support closing the gun show loophole and extending the assault weapons ban, and Carper called on the president to support a final gun liability bill that includes the gun show and assault weapons amendments. "The president was right to support these ideas in the past, and it is right to support them now," said Carper.