March 5, 2013 in Nation/World

Bipartisan gun bill floated in Senate

Straw purchases, trafficking targeted
Jim Abrams Associated Press
 
Colorado bills move forward

 DENVER – Colorado Democrats advanced restrictions on ammunition magazines and expanded background checks as hundreds of gun advocates filled the state Capitol during an intense day in the battle over new firearm laws.

 The husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords testified Monday in favor of expanding background checks to include private and online sales. A Senate committee passed the bill on a 3-2 party-line vote.

 Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tucson, Ariz., was wounded in a mass shooting in January 2011 while meeting with constituents.

 Car honks blared all day outside as lawmakers discussed seven gun bills. Four have passed on partisan votes, including banning magazines that load more than 15 rounds.

 The bills still need votes by the full Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

WASHINGTON – Gun trafficking and the straw purchasing of firearms would become federal crimes under bipartisan legislation announced by five senators Monday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the bill would establish tough penalties for those who buy a firearm or ammunition with the intent of transferring it to someone else. The measure would also make it a crime to smuggle firearms out of the United States.

Leahy said there is no federal law now that defines either gun trafficking or straw purchasing – when a person who can legally buy guns transfers those guns to criminals and others barred from gun ownership – as crimes.

The bill was crafted by Leahy, fellow Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Republicans Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine.

“The absence of any federal law defining gun trafficking as a crime in this country is shocking,” Gillibrand said.

The legislation will be taken up by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday as part of a package of four bills aimed at reducing gun violence. The others involve regulating assault weapons, enhancing school safety and requiring background checks for all firearm sales.

The Judiciary Committee has taken a lead in considering the gun violence issue following the school shootings last December in Newtown, Conn.

The proposed legislation would make it a crime to transfer a weapon when a person has “reasonable cause to believe” that the firearm will be used in criminal activity. It contains exemptions for the transfer of a firearm as a gift, or in relation to a legitimate raffle or contest.

While existing law makes it a crime to smuggle firearms into the United States, the Senate proposal would also ban the smuggling of weapons out of the United States. That provision is specifically aimed at the trafficking of arms across the Southwest border.

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