Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation to combat illegal straw purchasing of guns and gun trafficking and pledged that his committee will conduct a hearing on gun violence next week.
Mr. Leahy’s proposed bill would prohibit straw purchasing, where someone buys a gun for someone else who is barred from getting one on their own. Co-sponsored by Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the bill also establishes tough penalties for people who purchase guns intending to transfer them to someone else, and expands the existing trafficking law to criminalize smuggling guns out of the United States.
“The provisions laid out in this legislation are focused, commonsense remedies to the very real problem of firearms trafficking and straw purchasing,” Mr. Leahy said. “The bill does not affect federal firearms licensees, and in no way alters their rights and responsibilities as sellers of a lawful commodity.”
How Mr. Leahy approaches other items on President Obama’s wish list, such as a ban on military-style, so-called assault weapons and bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines, will be crucial in determining how much of Mr. Obama’s gun control agenda will ultimately get through Congress. House leadership has indicated that it is not likely to act on gun legislation until the Senate does. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that he will tread cautiously on putting his caucus on the record on politically sensitive votes like an assault weapons ban if the House is unwilling to take it up.
The issue of gun control has moved front and center on Capitol Hill in the wake of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Mr. Leahy also said the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing on gun violence during the 113th Congress in one week, on Jan. 30.
“As the Senate seeks a way forward to find national solutions to reduce gun violence, I hope senators from across the political spectrum can work together to find common ground,” he said. “We have a responsibility and a duty to refine our laws consistent with the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a senator, a Vermonter, an American, a father and a grandfather, I am prepared to hear all ideas, listen to all views, and work with Senators from both sides of the aisle.”