By Jonathan Easley - 04/17/13 04:27 PM EDT
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) unveiled an alternative gun control bill on Wednesday.
The announcement comes on a day when the Senate appears likely to block further debate on a bipartisan background checks bill.
“Rather than restricting the rights of law-abiding Americans, we should be focusing on keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals, which this legislation accomplishes,” Cruz said. “While the Obama Administration continues to politicize a terrible tragedy to push its anti-gun agenda, I am proud to stand beside my fellow senators to present common-sense measures that will increase criminal prosecutions of felons who try to buy guns, criminalize straw purchasing and gun trafficking, and address mental health issues.”
Grassley and Cruz, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced the bill at a press conference Wednesday morning, just hours before the Senate will vote on it and other gun control measures.
One of the primary criticisms Republicans had before a vote to move forward on a background checks bill last week was that they didn’t have time to read it before the vote.
Cruz said that despite the late hour, his legislation has 20 co-sponsors and had been circulated among Republicans and Democrats with no negative feedback. He predicted that despite the small window before the vote, the bill would garner bipartisan support.
The bill would increase the resources available to prosecutors for violators of gun laws, and creates a “Cruz Task Force” to prosecute those who fail criminal background checks. The task force is funded through an Asset Forfeiture Fund.
The bill criminalizes straw purchasing and trafficking, measures Grassley supported in committee hearings on the gun control bill that will go before the Senate later this month. It also seeks to increase safety at schools, keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and increases accountability for prosecutions at the executive level by requiring the Department of Justice to submit reports to Congress.
The senators were particularly critical of the Obama administration’s record of prosecuting background check violations, saying it only took up a small portion of such cases.
The bill does not expand background checks, but rather “focuses on making the backgrounds system work better…by encouraging states to report mental health records,” Cruz said.
The National Rifle Association said it supports the bill.
The bill includes provisions making it easier to purchase and transport firearms across state lines.
The bill would allow for the interstate sale of firearms, and for the interstate transportation of firearms providing certain conditions are met. Guns transported across state lines will have to be unloaded, locked in a vehicle or kept in the trunk.
Another pro-gun provision of the bill will allow military members to buy guns in the states where they’re stationed.
Grassley said the bill was the result of “the combined efforts of many members of the Senate,” and called it “a sensible alternative” to Democratic gun control reform efforts that “addresses problems we’ve seen without burdening law abiding citizens.”
Updated at 1:31 p.m.