AUGUSTA, Maine — Speaking before a legislative committee Monday in support of a gun control bill, the father of a student who was a victim at Colorado’s Columbine High School recalled a question his son asked shortly before the April 1999 massacre.
“Two weeks before the tragedy at Columbine, my son Daniel, who was in a debate class, asked me at the dinner table if I knew there were loopholes in the Brady bill. I just said, ‘No, I didn’t know that,’ and that pretty much was the end of the conversation,” Tom Mauser of Littleton, Colo., told the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
“I was shocked, then, when my son was killed with a gun bought through one of those loopholes in the Brady bill,” said Mauser, who wore Daniel’s sneakers to the hearing as a tribute to his son. “I discovered that someone bought that gun and two other guns at a gun show from an unlicensed private seller to avoid creating a paper trail and having to undergo a background check.”
Mauser spoke in favor of a bill that would require a national instant criminal background check be performed by private sellers as well as licensed dealers before the sale or transfer of a firearm at a gun show. The hearing on that and other bills to tighten Maine’s gun sales laws came days after multiple shootings in Binghamton, N.Y., Pittsburgh and Graham, Wash.
Mauser said the gun show bill is similar to one he helped to push through in Colorado in 2000, the year after 12 Columbine students and a teacher were killed and 26 others were injured before the shooters killed themselves. Mauser said he was shocked to discover background checks can be skipped at gun shows that have private sellers.
“No paperwork, no background check, no questions asked,” Mauser said. “Cash and carry.”
Mauser and other supporters dismissed claims by the bill’s opponents that the bill chips away at Second Amendment gun ownership rights, and defended it as a straightforward and simple way to keep guns out of the hands of those with criminal histories.
“This is not rocket science,” said Tom Franklin of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence. “This is stunningly obvious.”
Franklin, who said he’s also a member of the National Rifle Association, said that most gun shows are legitimate and most background checks take less than a minute.
Opponents of the bill, who included the NRA, the 14,000-member Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and several people in the firearms business, said licensed dealers at gun shows already are bound by federal regulations requiring background checks before sales are final. They also said unlicensed private sellers are rare at gun shows.
SAM Executive Director George Smith said it’s unfair to call private sales at gun shows a loophole, because all other private sales outside of gun shows would remain legal.
A separate, more sweeping bill would require most private sales to be subject to criminal background checks by federally licensed firearms dealers.