Gabrielle Giffords on Wednesday urged senators to be “bold” and “courageous” in acting now on gun violence legislation, specifically universal background checks.
Seven Republicans sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Jeff Flake from Giffords’ home state of Arizona, couldn’t even bring themselves to vote for a federal gun trafficking bill, which would for the first time enhance criminal penalties for straw purchasers and gun traffickers.
On Thursday morning, the committee voted to advance the bipartisan Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, with 10 Democrats and only one Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), voting to bring the bill to a full Senate vote, which will likely take place after Congress returns from April recess.
The seven Republicans who voted against the measure — whose chief sponsor is committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and is co-sponsored by Republicans Mark Kirk (IL) and Susan Collins (ME) — are: Orrin Hatch (UT), Jeff Sessions (AL), Lindsey Graham (SC), John Cornyn (TX), Mike Lee (UT), Ted Cruz (TX), and Flake.
ThinkProgress quotes Cornyn as saying “my concern is that this bill is a solution in search of a problem. Straw purchasing for purpose of directing guns to people who cannot legally attain them is already a crime,” in explaining his opposition to the federal gun trafficking law.
Giffords and husband Mark Kelly’s new gun safety advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, states on its website why the gun trafficking law is important. They say, contrary to Cornyn’s assertion, that “law enforcement can only go after gun traffickers for what are essentially paperwork violations,” and that these offenses generally lead to minor sentences (the law would stiffen penalties for straw purchases to up to 25 years). They also state that “one percent of licensed firearm dealers account for 57 percent of guns recovered in crimes.”
The committee is also set to consider three other gun bills, including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and a ban on high-capacity magazines. Although a majority of Americans support all three proposals, many congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association oppose any new gun laws.
“The number one thing we can do to stop gun trafficking is a universal background check system. But Congress should also institute stiff penalties for straw purchasers and pass a clear federal statute that makes gun trafficking a serious crime,” Americans for Responsible Solutions says.
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