Members Introduce Bipartisan House Bill to Combat Gun Trafficking
Today, Robin Kelly (D-Illinois), Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), Patrick Meehan (R-Pennsylvania), Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Peter T. King (R- New York), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania), Dan Donovan (R- New York), and Tammy Duckworth (D- Illinois) are re-introducing a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives to make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties for “straw purchasers” who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own.
The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2015 directly addresses concerns by law enforcement officials who testified before Congress that a dedicated firearms trafficking statute would help them combat the flow of thousands of firearms to violent criminals, international drug cartels, and a host of other dangerous people.
The introduction of this bill comes on the heels of a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing today on violence at the U.S. Mexico border. In March, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms reported that more than 100,000 guns were recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing from 2009 to 2014. Of those, 70% originated in the United States.
Yesterday, the Mexican embassy to the United States sent a letter in support of these efforts, highlighting that “Congress can play a very important role” in combating “the flow of illegal firearms by enacting proper legislation.”
“Every gun used in a crime was first obtained legally and then found its way into criminals’ hands through unlawful activity such as straw purchases and theft,” said Rep. Kelly. “Improving the background check system is crucial but we must take it a step further by prohibiting gun trafficking. Making gun trafficking a federal crime is a common sense measure that provides law enforcement the tools needed to effectively address our national epidemic of gun violence and gun crime. I’m proud to stand with a bi-partisan group of my fellow lawmakers to take this first positive step to address gun trafficking.”
“We have made it too hard for law enforcement to stop guns from getting into the hands of criminals and too easy for criminals to get their hands on guns,” said Rep. Maloney. “There should be no ambiguity: gun trafficking and straw purchases are illegal, and cost lives. If you are caught up in these activities, you will be prosecuted and sent to jail. The bipartisan Gun Trafficking Prevention Act would give law enforcement the tools they need to make sure that happens.”
“We must give law enforcement and prosecutors better tools to stop gun trafficking and straw purchasing,” said Rep. Meehan, a former federal prosecutor. “This bipartisan bill protects our constitutional rights while taking necessary actions to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and help reduce gun violence.”
“Today the Oversight Committee will hold a hearing to discuss violence in Mexico border, which has been exacerbated by a steady flow of firearms from the United States,” said Ranking Member Cummings. “Many of these weapons have been trafficked across state lines with the intent of inflicting harm south of the border. If this bill passes, it will make our communities safer while making a huge dent in the flow of illegal guns to Mexico.”
“I have long supported efforts to crack down on illegal gun trafficking,” said Rep. King. “This legislation will make our citizens safer by giving law enforcement the tools they need to take gun-traffickers off the streets who are funneling firearms to felons, drug cartels and gang members. I am proud to be a part of a bipartisan group of members offering a solution to this problem.”
“The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act is a common sense proposal to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by Act imposing stronger penalties for ‘straw purchasers’ who buy guns for convicted felons or others who would fail a background check,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “This bipartisan measure gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to put those skirting our gun laws behind bars while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
“I spent most of my career as a prosecutor,” said Rep. Donovan. “Providing law enforcement with the tools they need to combat illegal gun crime is critical to keeping New York the safest big city in America. We can strike a balance in protecting the Second Amendment while keeping guns away from criminals.”
“The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act is the rare bipartisan gun safety bill that all Americans can support, “ said Rep. Duckworth. “I am a proud cosponsor of this common sense proposal that empowers law enforcement to crack down on illegal gun trafficking – and a combat Veteran who grew up in a family of marksmen. This bill simply criminalizes activity that the vast majority of Americans already believe is a Federal crime: using middlemen to buy guns for dangerous criminals. Enough is enough. Too many innocent Illinois residents are killed by guns that fall into the hands of criminals who never should have obtained them in the first place. It's time for Congress to act.”
This legislation was first introduced in 2013 and was cosponsored by 118 Members of the House from both political parties. It also passed as an amendment out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but was not enacted into law. Specifically, the legislation:
- Prohibits Firearms Trafficking: The bill prohibits the purchase or transfer of a firearm if the intent is to deliver it to someone else who is prohibited by Federal or State law from possessing one.
- Strengthens Penalties for Straw Purchasers: The bill strengthens penalties to up to 20 years imprisonment for “straw purchasers” who intentionally provide false or misleading material information when they purchase firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees.
- Enhances Penalties for Kingpins and Multiple Illegal Purchases: The bill provides enhanced penalties for organizers or managers of firearms trafficking networks and recommends that the Sentencing Commission increase penalties for multiple illegal gun purchases.
Groups supporting the bill include the American Bar Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Baltimore Police Department, CeaseFirePA, Daniel Webster, Director of Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Everytown for Gun Safety, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, Inc., Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Stephanie Rawlings Blake, Mayor of Baltimore, MD, United States Conference of Mayors, and the Violence Policy Center.
Click here for more information on the bill.