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Bipartisan group supports closing gun show loophole

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, proposed legislation Tuesday designed to prevent criminals from buying firearms at gun shows.

Speaking from the Senate lawn, the legislators and supporters of the bill unveiled the Gun Show Loophole Closing and Gun Law Enforcement Act of 2001, which would require background checks at all gun shows where at least 75 guns are sold.

"Gun shows, simply put, have become a paradise for illegal firearms sales because felons frequent gun shows to avoid having to go through a background check," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, a supporter of the bill.

The proposed legislation could reignite the debate over a waiting period for guns. For the first three years, the bill requires three-day waiting period. After that, states may reduce background checks between private buyers and sellers at gun shows to 24 hours, once the U.S. Attorney General's office has certified that its records are sufficiently automated.

President Bush says he supports background checks at gun shows, but remains opposed to allowing three days for the checks.

Last year, a similar bill died in Congress.

On Monday, Bush unveiled his two year plan to combat gun violence by providing $550 million to boost the enforcement of current gun laws. McCain said he "strongly" supports Bush's strategy.

The sponsors of the recent gun show proposal were quick to point out that the new bill, if enacted, would not weaken the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, passed in 1994.

"I put too much blood, sweat and tears into passing the Brady law," Schumer said. "This does not sacrifice Brady... it extends Brady and it does it very, very well."

In order to strengthen enforcement, the McCain-Lieberman bill would provide approximately $218 million in funding for new federal law enforcement. The bill would also require special licenses who conduct background checks at gun shows to maintain the same records that licensed gun stores keep, but it does not require private buyers or sellers to keep records.

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