U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on the Judiciary
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman www.house.gov/judiciary
For immediate release - May 12, 2000
Contact: Sam Stratman/Terry Shawn (202) 225-2492
Text of Hyde Letters to Conyers, President Clinton
On Compromise Gun Safety Legislation
President Bill Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Please permit me to share with you the most recent correspondence with Rep. John Conyers, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, who wrote to me on May 4th regarding our continuing effort to forge compromise gun safety legislation.
As you will see by my letter to John, I have made additional modifications to my proposed compromise in an effort move forward with this important legislation:
First, I am prepared to drop the provision in my original proposal that allows for certain firearms shipments by federally licensed vendors and instant check registrants.
Second, I am committed to changing the definition of a "gun show" by substantially modifying the purpose-of-the-event language to ensure that all events that constitute a gun show are subject to Brady background checks.
As you are aware, a majority of Republican House conferees on gun safety legislation have signed onto my proposed compromise. I need three Democratic members of the conference committee to pledge support for this proposal so that we may formally present the compromise to the Senate. It is my hope that you will do all in your power to help us break this logjam and encourage members of your own party to help us enact meaningful gun safety legislation this year.
A Text of Hyde's Letter to Conyers:
May 12, 2000
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on the Judiciary
Washington, D.C. 20515
Thank you for your letter of May 4, 2000, concerning gun safety legislation.
I have noted again your concerns about my proposed use of the term "official records" for triggering the longer three-day background check review period. I am increasingly of the view that we are talking past one another on this issue and that no real difference exists regarding how we want the 24-hour/three business day review to operate. We both agree that there should be a general requirement that all background checks at gun shows be accomplished within 24 hours. We both further agree that the 24-hour limit should give way to a longer, up-to-three-business-day review period when the would-be purchaser has not been cleared within 24 hours due to the existence of information in the National Instant Check System (NICS) which indicates that the would-be purchaser might be ineligible under the Brady law. While I remain open to modified language which best accomplishes this outcome, I do want to explain more fully the rationale that led to the use of the term "official records."
My initial proposal in our negotiations, based on discussions with the FBI's NICS Program Office, provided that the trigger for the longer, three-business day review period would simply be arrest records. This is because, according to the NICS Program Office, the only kind of record in the NICS database that is not a final disposition record but that still might indicate that a would-be purchaser is ineligible, is an arrest record: if the arrest led to a felony conviction or a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction, and there is an available record of such a conviction, then such a person would be ineligible. On the other hand, under current law and under your proposal, an arrest record by itself is not sufficient basis for prohibiting a sale from occurring. This ambiguity, in my judgment, necessitated the three-day review.
You expressed concern that having arrest records as the trigger for the three-day review was too narrow and that other records of possible Brady prohibitions might be in the NICS
system and should also trigger the longer review period. You expressed the concern that as states continue to improve their capabilities to enter information of possible Brady disqualifications into the NICS system, a greater variety of types of records would be part of the background check, and hence, arrest records might not be the only available indicator of a purchaser possibly being ineligible. I thought your concern had merit; therefore, I broadened the trigger beyond simply arrest records to include any other official record in the NICS database of a possible Brady violation.
Honorable John Conyers
May 12, 2000
You have again expressed concern about the proposed definition of "gun show" in my proposal. Specifically, you write that the "'purpose' language...would make the entire gun background check regimen apply to almost no one." That is simply not the case. It might be the case if the purpose-of-the-event test was subjectively determined: that is, each event would be left free to declare whether or not its primary purpose is to facilitate the sale of firearms. This, however, is plainly not how the purpose test would work. Rather, it would be an objective test. As you appreciate, the challenge facing us is to develop a definition that covers all events that constitute actual gun shows, without unintentionally covering all manner of private transactions and imposing the regulatory requirements and civil and criminal liability on parties involved in such transactions. To that end, I am prepared to modify the purpose language to ensure that events that are used to facilitate the sale of firearms are included in the definition of gun show. I remain prepared to work with you to ensure an effective and workable gun show definition.
I believe I can put the high capacity ammunition clip ban issue and the issue concerning the background check for those under indictment to rest once and for all. I continue to support the exact language regarding the ammunition clip ban that Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and I offered on the House floor in June.
While I may have floated modified language during our past months of negotiations, I remain supportive of the language I offered in June, and would like to see it become law. And concerning those under indictment receiving the longer, three-day background check, you will find my most recent draft proposal clearly provides the three-day review for those under indictment. I remain convinced that the three-day review should occur anytime there are records that indicate that receipt of a firearm might violate Subsections 922(g) or (n).
I am also prepared to drop the provision in my proposal that allows for certain firearms shipments by federally licensed vendors and instant check registrants. As you know, current law already permits the interstate shipment of firearms from one federally licenced vendor to another. I continue to believe that the regulatory controls and criminal penalties that cover federally licensed vendors and instant check registrants are sufficient to ensure that any shipments of firearms made by them would be as safe and secure as shipments of firearms under current law.
Honorable John Conyers
May 12, 2000
Finally, with regard to the immediate destruction of records for approved purchasers, it may be that you and I will ultimately have to agree to disagree. I do not dispute your contention that retaining such records for a prolonged period may be useful in various ways for law enforcement; however, I believe that any such utility would be more than outweighed by the concerns of law-abiding citizens that the Federal government was retaining certain personal information about them in connection with their lawful purchase of a firearm. I would also note that majorities in the House and the Senate have both voted for the immediate destruction provision during this Congress.
John, I continue to hope that we might be able to reach an agreement on
comprehensive legislation that includes reasonable gun safety provisions,
including an effective background check at guns shows, gun safety locks, a
juvenile Brady provision, a ban on juvenile possession of assault weapons, and a
ban on large capacity clips. I believe that a review of our correspondence shows
how far I am prepared to move to reach an agreement; I have yet to see any such
movement on your part. John, do you really want to forge a compromise?
I remain open to any recommendations that might lead to needed improvements.
HENRY J. HYDE
cc: President William J. Clinton