New bipartisan bill takes aim at gun trafficking

Firearms trafficking would become a federal crime, and “straw purchasers” who buy guns for convicted felons and others barred from buying guns on their own would face 20 years behind bars, under a new bipartisan House bill.

H.R. 452, the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013 introduced Monday by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; Patrick Meehan, R-Pa.; Scott Rigell, R-Va.; and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., aims to address concerns of law enforcement officials who’ve testified before Congress in the wake of December’s schoolhouse shooting massacre in Connecticut.

The officials had told lawmakers that a dedicated firearms trafficking statute would help them combat the flow of thousands of firearms to violent criminals, international drug cartels, and other dangerous people. This proposal was included in recommendations made last month by President Obama and Vice President Biden for legislative action to prevent gun violence.

The authors held a news conference today on Capitol Hill, backed by a phalanx of uniformed law enforcement officers.

“We’re first and foremost here today as fellow Americans,” Rigell said. “This bill wisely tackles the deficiencies that exist right now in federal law.”

“As a lifetime member of the NRA, as a firearm owner and as a father … I’ve got a problem with people who break the law with firearms because it inevitably puts pressure on my rights,” he said, yet four of 10 straw purchasers face no meaningful consequence.

“It’s really great to have an NRA member standing with us on this important reform,” Maloney said.

The bill goes first to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. Goodlatte had the NRA’s endorsement last year (as did Meehan, but not Rigell); it’ll be interesting to see how he handles this bill.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.