Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Protecting Communities by Keeping Illegal Guns Out of New York

Protecting Communities by Keeping Illegal Guns Out of New York

Together with some of the nation’s top anti-crime leaders, Senator Gillibrand and Representative Carolyn McCarthy have assembled a new measure to eliminate the steady flow of illegal guns into New York.

Nearly 90 percent of the guns used in gun crimes in New York City come from out of state, and approximately 90 percent of these guns are illegal.

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, representatives from the Brady Campaign and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and the parents of victims who lost their lives from gun violence, Senator Gillibrand and Representative McCarthy authored and introduced the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act to empower local, state, and federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute gun traffickers and their entire criminal networks, while protecting responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

Focus on Entire Criminal Network

The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act makes it illegal to traffic or assist in the trafficking of a firearm, making it unlawful to deliver or receive two or more firearms where the individual knows or has reason to believe that the firearms are being, or will be, used in a felony.  By going after straw-purchasers who buy a gun for someone else to help them evade required recordkeeping and background checks, corrupt gun dealers who sell firearms to traffickers, and persons who conspire with and organize gun trafficking rings, this legislation addresses firearms trafficking at every point of the chain. 

Tough Penalties for Criminals

The legislation establishes stiff penalties that are a much-needed deterrent to gun trafficking.  Under this bill, traffickers could face up to twenty years in prison and be fined a significant sum of money.  It also provides greater penalties for kingpins who organize gun trafficking rings, subjecting them to an additional sentence of potentially five consecutive years in prison.

The bill also treats individuals engaged in a conspiracy to traffic guns the same as those who actually traffick a gun.  Individuals who engage in the conspiracy, such as straw-purchasers, are subject to the same punishment as those who physically sell and receive the illegal guns.  

By creating more options and providing flexibility for prosecutors and judges, we increase the tools that are available for prosecutors in the  federal criminal justice system to appropriately crack down on individuals who are engaged in every aspect of gun trafficking.

Crackdown on Corrupt Gun Dealers

Third, the Attorney General of the United States and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are empowered to impose heightened restrictions, levy tough financial penalties, and suspend or revoke the license of any corrupt gun dealer who knowingly sells to traffickers or straw purchasers.  Corrupt gun dealers will be subject to a license suspension of up to six months and a fine of up to $2,500 per violation.  This is the first time that the levying of civil penalties will be widely available as a deterrent for corrupt gun dealers.

The Attorney General is given the authority to identify and impose special restrictions on high-risk gun dealers, which could include dealers who have been unable to trace guns as required by federal law or who report significant or frequent inventory losses or thefts, among other criteria. 

To prevent these high-risk dealers from supplying guns to traffickers or straw-purchasers, federal law enforcement would be able to impose conditions on them such as increased inspections, inventory checks and reconciliation, training dealers and employees in how to avoid illegal sales, and requiring that the dealer not complete firearm sales until the national instant background check system informs the dealer that they may proceed with the sale.

The overwhelming majority of licensed gun dealers are responsible and law abiding.  This bill goes after the very small minority of dealers who are contributing to the cycle of violence that put our children and families at risk. In fact, almost sixty percent of crime guns come from about one percent of federally licensed gun dealers. 

For those dealers that are suspected of corrupt practices, the legislation protects the right of due process before their licenses are revoked by the Attorney General, and also allows for gun dealers whose licenses have been revoked to seek judicial review.  By putting reasonable punishments in place, this legislation would put corrupt gun dealers out of business, create deterrents to engaging in these behaviors and keep our neighborhoods safe from gun violence. 

Funding for ATF

The fourth part of the bill provides the ATF with the resources it desperately needs to inspect all federally licensed gun dealers and further investigate high-risk gun dealers. 

Federal law currently allows ATF to conduct annual inspections of all federally licensed dealers, but with the current lack of resources and funding it would take the bureau between seven and ten years to properly inspect every licensed dealer in the country.  This allows corrupt dealers to go for many years without being suspected or caught. 

To address this problem, the bill would authorize the Director of ATF to hire more personnel necessary to increase the average inspection rate of gun dealers to three years.  Specifically, ATF would be given the authority to hire at least 500 additional Industry Operations Investigators and 1000 special agents, who would be equipped with sufficient funding to meet the goals of inspecting gun dealers, enforcing these tough new restrictions, and supporting local law enforcement as they track down and prosecute gun traffickers in New York and around the country.

Protections for Responsible, Law-Abiding Gun Owners

Last, the legislation upholds the Constitution and protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners who get a background check before selling or purchasing a gun.  Specifically, the bill provides a defense for an individual seller who obtains a background check on the person to whom he or she is selling prior to the sale.  This serves to protect individual gun owners who make a good faith effort to ensure that they are not selling their firearm or firearms collection to a person who is prohibited from possessing those guns.  This bill does not provide any new regulations on individuals who wish to sell or give their firearms as a gift to law-abiding family members, friends, or neighbors.  But it creates an incentive to conduct a background check before the gun is exchanged.  It also exempts executors from prosecution under this legislation if they are carrying out the provisions of a will.