Sens. Leahy, Collins to introduce bill to curb firearms trafficking

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) will unveil legislation on Monday aimed at curbing the illegal trafficking of firearms.

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Collins’s spokesman Kevin Kelley told The Hill in an email that details about the bill were coming “shortly.” 

It’s unclear how the legislation would differ from Leahy’s previously introduced bill which would make it easier for federal law enforcement officials to crack down on so-called “straw purchasers.” 

But the news that Collins is on board with Leahy’s effort is the latest evidence of a growing bipartisan consensus to take at least some steps to stem the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

Leahy’s earlier bill would add a new provision to the criminal code to make it illegal to purchase firearms on behalf of persons who are prohibited from owning them. Federal prosecutors now have little legal basis to file charges against gun traffickers and often must rely on technical paperwork violations to build their cases.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to mark up Leahy’s legislation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) renewal of the federal assault weapons ban, a measure introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to increase federal grants for school safety, and Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) bill to expand background checks on private gun sales.

The mark-up was delayed until this week, to give Schumer more time to work out a deal with Republicans, who say expanded background checks can’t include any semblance of a national registry to track gun purchases.

Lawmakers have resumed debate over gun control in the aftermath of December’s tragic shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

While President Obama is pushing for bans on assault weapons and high-capacity clips as well as mandatory background checks, it is uncertain which of these measures can pass. The nation’s gun lobby and GOP lawmakers have vowed to wage a fierce fight against any new gun ownership restrictions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said however that he would allow a floor vote on any legislation which passes through committee. And on Sunday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the House would consider any gun-control measures passed by the Senate.