Leahy Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation To Combat Firearms Trafficking

News Release — U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
May 18, 2017

David Carle

WASHINGTON — Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Thursday unveiled legislation to combat straw purchasing and illegal trafficking in firearms. Introduced during Police Week, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2017, S. 1185, would give law enforcement officials critical tools to more effectively investigate and deter straw purchasers and illegal weapons traffickers.

Under current law, straw purchasing is not explicitly a crime, and it is only unlawful to transfer a firearm if the transferor had actual knowledge that the firearm would be used to commit a crime. This legislation would establish straw purchasing as a federal crime and would create tough penalties for anyone who transfers a firearm with reason to believe that it would be used in a drug crime, crime of violence, or act of terrorism. The senators note that passing this law would be an important piece of the response to the opioid crisis in New England, where the surge in opioid abuse has exposed a “guns for drugs” trade.

Leahy said: “I have often heard from law enforcement that current law does not do enough to deter gun traffickers. In Vermont and across the nation, we have seen the relationship between trafficked firearms and the drug trade. Closing these loopholes will help keep firearms out of the hands of those who seek to do us harm and will make our neighborhoods safer.”

“Straw purchasing is intended to achieve one result: to put a gun in the hands of a criminal who cannot legally obtain one. Today, traffickers exploit weaknesses in our laws by targeting individuals who can lawfully purchase guns, which are then used to commit crimes once they are transferred to the criminal who would be unable to pass the background check. Straw purchasing is a growing problem in Maine, where gang members approach addicts to buy guns in exchange for drugs,” said Senator Collins. “Our bill would create new criminal offenses for straw purchasing, which would help law enforcement officials take down these criminal enterprises.”

This bipartisan measure does not affect lawful purchases from federal firearms licensees, nor does it prohibit the innocent transfer of a firearm, such as through gifts or raffles. The bill is strongly supported by numerous law enforcement organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Tactical Officers Association, and the National District Attorneys Association.

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