WASHINGTON -- One measure to curb gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre took a major step forward in the Senate Monday when a bipartisan group of senators agreed to push a bill designed to crack down on gun trafficking.
The measure, the Stop Illegal Trafficking of Firearms Act of 2013, merges a Democratic effort by Sens. Pat Leahy (Vt.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) with a similar effort by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill). It also adds another Republican as a supporter, Maine's Susan Collins.
The bill would make it a crime -- with stiff penalties -- to purchase weapons on behalf of someone else who is barred from possessing weapons. Such "straw purchases" are believed to be the leading source of guns trafficked to criminals.
The future of the bill is uncertain -- as is another popular effort to strengthen background checks -- due in large part to adamant opposition from lawmakers who see any new guns laws as an infringement on the Second Amendment.
But the growing bipartisan backing for the anti-trafficking measure suggests the bill may have a chance.
"Our bill will help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals without infringing in any way on the rights of law-abiding citizens," Collins said on the Senate floor Monday, adding that the punishment for buying weapons for criminals could be up to 25 years in prison.
It's currently a crime to lie about the identity of a buyer when filling out forms about a gun purchase, but the act itself of giving the guns to crooks is not, the lawmakers argued.
"The absence of any federal law defining gun trafficking as a crime in this country is shocking,” Gillibrand in a statement Monday. “I am pleased that we have reached a bipartisan consensus on a path forward that we expect to reach broad bipartisan support.
"Cracking down on gun trafficking and keeping illegal guns off our streets to save lives is not a Republican or Democratic idea, it is just a good idea," Gillibrand added. "By cracking down on straw purchasers, illegal gun traffickers and their vast criminal networks, we can stop the flow of illegal guns and reduce gun crime."
Leahy will bring the new measure up for debate in the Judiciary Committee later this week.