Maloney Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill to Make Gun Trafficking a Federal Offense, Impose Stronger Penalties on Straw Purchasers

Mar 9, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), along with co-sponsors Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (MD-07) and Reps. Patrick Meehan (PA-07), Peter King (NY-02), Robin Kelly (IL-02), and Daniel Donovan (NY-11), reintroduced 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 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing today on the death of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata who was shot and killed in Mexico in 2011. Two of the weapons used in the shooting were later recovered and traced back to U.S.-based gun traffickers who straw purchased firearms. In the past, the Committee has heard directly from law enforcement officials 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 Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2017 responds to this concern. The bill was first introduced after a 2011 Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, when an ATF agent testified that gun trafficking violations are currently “no more consequential than doing 65 in a 55 zone.”

“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. “Congress has the responsibility to equip law enforcement with the stricter laws prohibiting gun trafficking that they have time and again told us they need. The law must treat gun trafficking and straw purchases as the dangerous acts they are before we needlessly lose more lives! The bipartisan Gun Trafficking Prevention Act would provide these tools and help put offenders behind bars. Americans have made it clear that they are in favor of common-sense gun safety laws, this bipartisan bill is just that.”

“As a former local and federal prosecutor, I’ve seen the role that traffickers and straw purchasers play in enabling violent gun crimes,” said Rep. Meehan. “This legislation takes prudent steps to crack down on those that help criminals get their hands on guns while protecting the Second Amendment rights of the law abiding.”

“The Acting Director of ATF testified before Congress just this morning that there is ‘no doubt’ that a federal gun trafficking statute would help law enforcement authorities across the country combat criminal organizations  who engage in these activities,” said Ranking Member Cummings. “Our bipartisan proposal has the support of law enforcement groups and prosecutor organizations in local and federal jurisdictions across the country. After four years, we hope our bill will finally get action in the House of Representatives.”

 “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.”

“Improving our background check system is vital to stopping gun trafficking. Far too often, guns end up in criminal’s hands because of theft or straw purchases. It’s time to take a positive step toward ending this illegal activity and gun violence,” said Rep. Kelly. “Gun trafficking should be a federal crime and I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort. It’s a common sense measure that gives our brave law enforcement officers the tools that they needed to effectively address gun crimes and gun violence.”

“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.”

This legislation was first introduced in 2013 and was cosponsored by 118 Members of the House from both political parties. It was again introduced in 2015 with bipartisan support. 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.

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