For Release: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Washington, DC–The Violence Policy Center (VPC) strongly endorses the “Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013,” a bi-partisan initiative introduced today by Representatives Patrick Meehan (R-Pennsylvania), Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), Scott Rigell (R-Virginia), and Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland). The bill addresses the illegal flow of guns into urban centers in the United States as well as the cross-border smuggling of firearms from the United States to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada by honing in on the practice of “straw purchasing.” “Straw purchasing” involves persons prohibited from possessing firearms recruiting people with clean records to purchase guns and then transfer them to prohibited buyers such as felons. In Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Firearms Laws Against Illegal Traffickers (June 2000), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) identified “straw purchasing” as “the most common channel in [firearm] trafficking investigations,” noting, “Almost half of all the trafficking investigations involved straw purchasers.”
As an ongoing project on cross-border gun trafficking, the Violence Policy Center has examined more than 110 federal gun prosecutions from 2007 to the present involving high-volume gun trafficking to Mexico and other Latin American countries and found that most of those cases involved international gun traffickers using “straw purchasers,” who are often paid, to acquire guns in the United States. The majority of the firearms involved were assault weapons. These federal cases compiled by the VPC can be accessed on our website at http://vpc.org/indicted.htm.
Currently, there is no federal statute that directly outlaws “straw purchasing,” forcing prosecutors to rely on laws prohibiting making false statements on the federal form that gun buyers fill out. This makes such cases very difficult to prove in court. It is no wonder the practice is so common when “straw buyers” know the chances of prosecution are low. “The ‘Gun Trafficking Prevention Act’ would fill a gaping hole in federal law that is contributing to the problem of illegal guns that are trafficked domestically and internationally,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand, “The bill would modernize federal law by directly addressing the practice most commonly used to traffic illegal guns. The importance of this change cannot be overstated—it is simply fundamental to stopping illegal gun trafficking.”