Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 20, 2013

Fact Check: Biden revises NRA history on background checks

Vice President Joe Biden exaggerates when he waxes nostalgic about the “good old days” — a time when “everybody, including the National Rifle Association, thought background checks made sense.” Biden’s office says he was referring to the NRA’s support for background checks in the early 1990s and its stated support for expanding background checks to include gun shows in 1999.

But vice president’s sentimental journey rides roughshod over the facts:

In 1991, the NRA endorsed legislation creating a national system of “instant background checks” as an alternative to a seven-day waiting period contained in the proposed Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. But the technology didn’t exist yet. A gun-control advocate said the “instant check bill would have completely gutted the Brady bill by eliminating the waiting period.”

In 1993, the Brady bill became law with compromise language on background checks. The law required a five-day waiting period until an instant background check system could be established. Background checks would apply only to federally licensed firearm dealers, and the NRA said it opposed attempts to expand background checks to all gun sales as “foolish.”

In 1998, on the day that the FBI launched the instant check system, the NRA sued to bar the federal agency from keeping identifying information on gun buyers for 90 days, claiming the brief retention of records amounted to a de facto gun registry. Although the NRA lost its suit, Congress would later mandate that the FBI destroy its records within 24 hours of an approved gun sale.

In 1999, Congress considered expanding background checks to include gun shows after the Columbine High School massacre. The NRA supported a narrow expansion of background checks in a House bill that then-President Clinton said was “plainly ghostwritten by the NRA.” The NRA opposed a more expansive Senate version. The Senate sponsor said that “the gun lobby killed the legislation in House-Senate conference.”

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