The new legislation will blend two previously existing proposals — one championed by Leahy and Durbin; the other by Gillibrand and Kirk — into one bill. As one aide put it to me: “This legislation will for the first time make gun trafficking a federal crime in order to provide tools to law enforcement to get illegal guns off the streets and away from criminal networks and street gangs. Currently, there is no federal law that defines gun trafficking as a crime.” The measure will also stiffen penalties for “straw purchasers” who knowingly buy guns for those who are not supposed to have them — a practice that many law enforcement groups and other experts believe contributes to gun violence.Five weeks ago, Kirk and Gillibrand introduced the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013. A week before that, Leahy had introduced his milder legislation.
Sargent suggests that support for this new legislation could possibly put the spurs to the bipartisan ad hoc Senate committee working on legislation to implement universal background checks on all purchases of firearms. Currently, private sales do not require a background check by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System the way purchases from federally licensed dealers do. Two Democrats and two Republicans have been working on the background-check proposal for four weeks.
But negotiations on the proposal, legislation that poll after poll shows overwhelming public support for, have been stalled by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma over the issue of record-keeping. The National Rifle Association, other gun lobbies and many gun owners oppose keeping government records of background checks because they view this as creating a registry that later could be used to confiscate guns.