In case you missed it, The Buffalo News published an editorial praising Senator Gillibrand’s proposal to make gun trafficking a federal crime, the core of which is included in the bipartisan gun reform package unveiled in the Senate early this week. In addition to criminalizing gun trafficking, Gillibrand’s proposal would establish penalties for those who knowingly transfer firearms across state lines to individuals not legally allowed to possess a gun and go after those who sell or deal trafficked firearms. The editorial calls on Congress to pass the bipartisan gun safety legislation to prevent tragedies like last month’s mass shooting in Buffalo.
Read the full editorial here or below:
Senate gun measure, showing Gillibrand’s influence, is well worthy of Congress’ support
Buffalo News Editorial Board | June 15, 2022
Call it a half-a-loaf, or at least something close to that.
The gun legislation moving through the U.S. Senate is less than the moment actually demands, but it represents real movement, nonetheless. For that, give some credit to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
The agreement, which critically includes 10 Republicans, would enhance background checks, provide federal funds to help states implement red flag laws and bolster mental health resources, including at schools. Perhaps most significantly, it would make it a federal crime to transfer firearms across state lines to individuals not authorized to possess them. That has been Gillibrand’s issue. The Democratic senator has introduced that legislation every year since she first joined the Senate in 2009.
As with her bill, the Senate’s proposed legislation would “hold accountable those who transfer guns to individuals they suspect will use them for illegal purposes,” Gillibrand said on Tuesday.
The need is obvious, especially in states like New York, which have strong laws, but can’t prevent the importation of illegal weapons from states where guns are easily and legally available. Almost 75% of the firearms used in crimes in this state and recovered by law enforcement originate from out of state, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics – many from Virginia, Georgia and Pennsylvania, state figures show.
A new law won’t prevent all such transfers, of course. Nor would it have hindered the May 14 massacre in Buffalo. The weapon used in that attack was legally purchased in New York, then illegally modified. Nevertheless, it would give law enforcement a new tool to use in the fight. It represents a useful improvement in Washington’s commitment to stanch the bloodshed inflicted by mass killers.
Plainly, the bill offers less than the evidence supports; the tens of millions of Americans who want to see strong measures implemented will have some cause for disappointment. Only a month ago, 10 people were swiftly murdered in a racist attack at the Tops of Jefferson Avenue. Days later, 19 elementary school children and two of their teachers were cut down in Uvalde, Texas. In both cases, the shooters used weapons that should be reserved for the military. Easy access to those firearms are indisputably part of the American problem.
Still, it is rare for Washington to move quickly on anything controversial. That’s the way it is in so diverse a country – one that has lately become fractured. It is important to take the wins that are possible.
That’s a hard lesson, but it has been learned in the past. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he came to regret rejecting a 1974 offer on health care offered by then-President Richard Nixon. It would have been a valuable start, he later realized – one that was then put off until 2010, with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act.
It’s difficult to be philosophical in the face of intolerable violence, but with its three coequal branches of government and a bicameral legislature, American democracy is designed to move slowly. Good things may be more difficult to achieve, but bad things are more difficult to impose. For better or worse, that’s what we’ve got.
With 10 Republicans helping to draw up the Senate agreement, the measure has the backing to avoid a filibuster. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., also said he would support the measure, if its language matches the announced framework.
The bill will then have to be reconciled with the more ambitious House measure. It will be worth the compromises, painful as they may be.