01/24/2013 09:09 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2013

Gun Violence Legislation: Senate Bills Emerge With Bipartisan Support

WASHINGTON -- They may not target issues as hefty as banning assault weapons or high-capacity gun magazines, but bills with bipartisan support are surfacing on Capitol Hill that would advance pieces of President Barack Obama's gun violence package.

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced legislation Thursday that would direct the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games and video programming on children. The bill, called the Violent Content Research Act of 2013, has three Republican co-sponsors: Sens. Mike Johanns (Neb.), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.).

"The reality is we are living in an increasingly violent culture which, when coupled with mental illness, can create a very dangerous situation," Heller said in a statement. "This bill is a step in the right direction towards better understanding the effects of violence on children."

Meanwhile, a bipartisan coalition of senators introduced another bill -- the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 -- to provide funding to expand mental health first aid training, in an effort to help the public identify and address crisis situations safely. That bill has nine co-sponsors, including Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.).

"As a nation, we must learn how to best care for the mentally ill in the hope that we may help to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook," Blunt said in a statement. "I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent senseless acts of violence and protect our children in our schools."

Neither of those bills is a major piece of Obama's gun violence package, which calls for, among other things, universal background checks for gun buyers, an assault weapons ban and a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. But given the nearly impossible task of passing gun control in Congress, the appearance of bipartisan bills to address tangential issues is a sign of progress for those pushing broader gun reforms.

Perhaps the most notable bipartisan effort is by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). During a Thursday appearance on MSNBC, Gillibrand said she and Kirk plan to introduce a bill next week that would make gun trafficking a federal crime. She described rampant gun trafficking in states like hers.

"We have such a challenge in New York. Eighty-five percent of the weapons used in crimes come from out of state, and 90 percent are illegal," Gillibrand said. "There's no crime to be a straw purchaser and to take weapons from a ... southern state and bring it straight up to New York and sell it out of the back of your truck directly to criminals. There's no law that says you can't do that."

Their bill would help crack down on the illegal sale of guns -- and ultimately, the prospect of those guns falling into the wrong hands -- by giving law enforcement "the tools they need to go after these criminals and these criminal networks," she said.

"They can't be just selling the guns right out of the back of a truck."



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