WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled legislation Tuesday that would make firearms trafficking – purchasing a gun for the express purpose of delivering it to a prohibited person — a federal crime.
The bill’s sponsors, Republican Reps. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Scott Rigell of Virginia, and Democrats Carolyn Maloney of New York and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, talked about their proposal at a news conference. They were joined onstage by law enforcement officials.
“After the massacre at Sandy Hook, some said nothing — nothing — would happen in the House of Representatives,” Cummings said. “We have a message for our colleagues in the House: this bill simply makes sense.”
In addition to making it illegal under federal law to buy a firearm for a criminal or others ineligible, the bill also would create harsher sentences and fines for “straw purchasers” — individuals who provide false information at the point of purchase with the intention of giving or selling the weapon to someone else.
“For those who have a deep concern about the overreach of the federal government, I am in that group; I have a deep concern about this,” Rigell, a gun owner, said. He stated the bill would not affect any Second Amendment rights. “Unless you’re a gun trafficker or straw purchaser, you don’t have a problem.”
Last week, senators from both parties proposed a bill that aims to tighten background checks as well as prevent the sale of guns to people with mental illness. President Barack Obama also visited Minnesota Monday as part of his campaign to curb gun violence nationwide.
“As a former federal prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the challenges faced by law enforcement personnel fighting to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” Meehan stated in a news release. “This legislation will give law enforcement critical tools they need to combat gun violence while protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.”
In addition to the support of the four House members, more than 15 law enforcement groups from across the nation urged approval of the bill. The sponsors of the legislation stressed their desire to reach across party aisles to find compromise on the issue.
“It is one of those rare times where everyone agrees,” Maloney said. “How often are you able to come forward with a bill that’s going to protect people, that law enforcement wants and needs, that’s going to prevent senseless gun violence…the American people are really calling upon us to take sensible common sense steps.”
The most emotional comments were given by Elijah Cummings who spoke passionately as an uncle who lost his 20-year old nephew to gun violence a year and a half ago. Referencing both former Rep. Gabby Gifford’s testimony last week and Rep. Eric Cantor’s plea for bipartisanship earlier Tuesday, Cummings reiterated the bill was a step in the right direction not only for gun violence but also for Democrat and Republican teamwork.
“If we never take action, we will never be able to solve any problem…” Cummings said. “I believe we have not just found common ground, but we have found higher ground.”
Spokesmen from both the Citizens Committee Rights to Keep and Bear Arms and the Second Amendment Foundation had not had a chance to look over the bill and could not comment.