Statement of Senator Carl Levin on the Daschle Sense of the Senate Resolution Commending the Million Mom March

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD Wednesday, May 17, 2000 106th Congress, 2nd Session

Mr. LEVIN. I thank the Senator from Washington for her leadership in this effort.

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of mothers and others were in Washington, D.C. for the Million Mom March, marching for sensible gun laws and safe kids. From my State of Michigan, thousands of moms came with their children, with their husbands, and with their parents to demonstrate for sensible gun safety legislation.

Those moms are distraught. They have lost children in school shootings and in drive-by shootings. They have lost their kids in accidental shootings and in murders in their homes and in the streets. They are afraid to send their kids to school or to play at another child's house. There are teachers who are afraid to go to work. They all marched last weekend to put an end to that fear. My wife Barbara and I marched along with them.

Every day, 12 of our children, on average, are killed from gunfire in America. Mothers are disheartened both by the children lost and by the unwillingness of Congress to do anything about gun safety legislation.

Of the hundreds of mothers I met this weekend, not one of them said let's do away with guns in this country, and yet that is how NRA leaders label the actions of the million moms. In reality, Michigan mothers and mothers around the country are simply calling for sensible gun safety.

The moms I met do not want to endure what a Michigan mother, Veronica McQueen, endured. Her 6-year-old daughter, Kayla Rolland, was shot by another 6-year-old at an elementary school not too far from Flint. On Sunday, she told her audience:

"Part of my heart went with her. It is so hard for me to think that I will never see her smile, laugh, or play again; I can never hold her or kiss her again, or see her grow up, get married, and have a happy life." The mothers who marched on Sunday know that in order to reduce the level of gun violence in this country, we must do many things.

One of the things we must do is to pass stricter laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have guns children who should not have guns, criminals who should not have guns. The way to do this, in the first instance, is to pass the juvenile justice bill with the Senate gun amendments.

About a year ago this week, the Senate passed an amendment which closed the gun show loophole by applying the Brady background checks to guns sold at gun shows. The gun show loophole allows criminals and other prohibited persons to buy guns at a gun show from a private person that they could not buy from a licensed dealer.

It is a loophole which has been exploited frequently by those who deliberately do not want to undergo background checks, including the Columbine gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

On April 20, 1999, Harris and Klebold opened fire on their classmates with four semiautomatic assault guns. Of those weapons, three were purchased by their friend, Robyn Anderson, at a gun show. Mr. President, 18-year-old Robyn Anderson bought her younger friends three weapons. Because she bought them at a gun show, she did not need to go through a background check.

Later she testified about this. I would think, of the various testimonies that come out of Columbine, this is some of the most memorable. This is what she said. This is the 18-year-old who bought the guns for the two killers. She said:

"Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had gone to the Tanner gun show on Saturday and they took me back with them on Sunday . . . While we were walking around, Eric and Dylan kept asking sellers if they were private or licensed. They wanted to buy their guns from someone who was private--and not licensed--because there would be no paperwork or background check." Robyn continues:

"I was not asked any questions at all. There was no background check. . . . Dylan got a shotgun. Eric got a shotgun and a black rifle that he bought clips for. He was able to buy clips and ammunition without me having to show any I.D. The sellers didn't write down any information." And here is her bottom line:

"I would not have bought a gun for Eric and Dylan if I had had to give any personal information or submit any kind of check at all. I think it was clear to the sellers that the guns were for Eric and Dylan. They were the ones asking all the questions and handling all the guns." She concluded:

"I wish a law requiring background checks had been in effect at the time. I don't know if Eric and Dylan would have been able to get guns from another source, but I would not have helped them. It was too easy. I wish it had been more difficult. I wouldn't have helped them buy the guns if I had faced a background check." So the Columbine gunmen knew about the gun show loophole. They took full advantage of it. The result: 15 dead. Congress has a chance to close the loophole with the gun show amendment. But that amendment is part of a juvenile justice bill which is tied up because the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate will not allow a conference to meet. It is at that conference where Members are supposed to reconcile differences between the two bills.

The Brady law is not intrusive to law-abiding Americans. Mr. President, 72 percent of the checks are completed in three minutes, and 95 percent are cleared within two hours. The five percent of people whose background checks take more than 24 hours to complete are 20 times more likely to have a criminal record or otherwise be prohibited from buying firearms. It is just simply not unreasonable to extend the Brady background check to guns that are bought at gun shows.

Congress must act. The moms, the dads, the grandparents, the families want us to act. We must vote yes on the pending sense-of-the-Senate legislation that Senator Daschle and others have offered in order to clearly state to the American public that there are some of us here, yes, in the majority in the Senate since the majority passed these amendments the majority of us want to act. With their help the million moms, and millions more like them we will hopefully be able to move this legislation this year, reduce the number of killings, and save more families from the tragedies which have been too often witnessed in this country.