Two Democrats and two Republicans introduced legislation in the House Tuesday that would punish with 20-year sentences persons convicted of buying or trying to buy a firearm that they intend to pass along to someone who is barred by state or federal law from possessing a gun. The legislation, the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013, is similar to legislation introduced last week in the Senate by Illinois Republican Mark Kirk and New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. If passed by both houses and signed by the president, the legislation would be the first federal law prohibiting gun trafficking.
Unlike the assault weapon ban introduced by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a proposal which faces vigorous opposition with perhaps a dozen Senate Democrats against, the bipartisan backing behind the gun-trafficking legislation means it stands a reasonable chance of being passed.
In the House, the anti-trafficking legislation is co-sponsored by Democrats Carolyn Maloney of New York and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, as well as Republicans Scott Rigell of Virginia and Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania.
The legislation would make it illegal:
• to intentionally provide false or misleading information on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms firearms transaction form; and
• to "promote, direct or facilitate" actions that violate the above prohibitions
The Kirk-Gillibrand version in the Senate is similar but would limit violations to the transfer of two or more firearms.
Both the Senate and House bill make exceptions for gifts and inheritances. Continue reading below about the legislation and advocacy groups' efforts to push a few reluctant Democrats to support more restrictions.
The co-sponsors of the Senate bill said last week that as many as 330,000 firearms have been found over the past three years to show tell-tale traces of black-market trafficking.
Tens of thousands of firearms are purchased each year by "straw" purchasers who sell them or otherwise provide them to buyers who cannot legally own such weapons and to drug cartels in Mexico, where drug-related violence over the past six years has led to the murders of as many as 50,000 people.
Said Cummings Monday:
"Law enforcement is concerned that folks now can go out there and purchase a gun for someone else who is already prohibited from having a gun. Those guns then end up in the wrong hands."Rigell said:
“This legislation is directed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. The murders of our first responders in New York on Christmas Eve with a straw-purchased firearm was a tragedy, and we must find common ground to lessen the level of gun violence in the United States. That is what the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013 does.”Mike Lillis and Amie Parnes reported Tuesday that gun-control advocates are putting the screws to some Democrats with newspaper and television ads designed to pressure them into supporting new restrictions on firearms:
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), for instance, launched a series of newspaper ads last month critical of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who had characterized Obama’s gun proposals as “extreme.”In addition to gun-trafficking, there appears to be growing support from both conservative Democrats and some Republicans for background checks of all gun-buyers. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor indicated to CNN Tuesday that he might be amenable to bolstering the current system, although he did not specifically endorse background checks for private sales. In several polls since the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school massacre in December, universal background checks of all buyers have received strong support across the political spectrum, including from gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association, the gun-industry's mouthpiece.
In response, Heitkamp’s office issued a statement saying Congress has “a responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, while protecting the rights of law abiding gun owners.” Her office rejected the notion that she’d changed her position, but the tone of the statement was noticeably softer than her earlier criticism.
The coalition has also targeted Rep. John Barrow (Ga.), another Democrat who’s been critical of Obama’s recent push for gun control.
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