- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2013

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, announced new legislation on the Senate floor Monday that would make gun trafficking a federal crime and crack down on straw purchasing — one of the first bipartisan gun-related measures to be introduced after the Newtown, Conn., shootings in December.

In addition to Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, the legislation has the support of Republican Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois. The legislation combines a measure introduced earlier in the session by Mr. Leahy and Mr. Durbin with a separate measure introduced by Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Kirk that would punish the original seller in such an illicit transaction, or someone who “knowingly” facilitates straw purchasing.

The measure introduced Monday would make gun trafficking a felony, tighten laws for straw purchasers who buy guns and sell them to people who cannot legally own them, and also allow for the punishment of the original gun seller in the straw purchase.

The addition of Ms. Collins, coupled with the joint announcement with Mr. Leahy — chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — is a significant step for a gun control push that has largely been driven by the White House and congressional Democrats thus far.

Ms. Collins described it on the Senate floor as “a bill that I think can bring us all together.”

Both she and Mr. Leahy said the measure would not infringe on Second Amendment rights.

“I hope that as other senators on both sides of the aisle become more familiar with our bipartisan proposal, they will understand how it provides law enforcement with the tools they need to go after those who engage in the straw purchasing and illegal trafficking of firearms,” Mr. Leahy said.

Rep. E. Scott Rigell, a Republican from Virginia, has voiced support for similar anti-trafficking legislation that’s been unveiled in the House, though Republican leadership in the House has indicated that the body will likely allow the Senate to act first on any gun-related legislation.

A quartet of senators that includes Democrats Charles E. Schumer of New York, Mr. Durbin, Mr. Kirk and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are also working on a measure to expand background checks on gun sales. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up a handful of gun-related bills, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed ban on so-called assault weapons, at a Thursday hearing this week.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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