Congress on Thursday held its first vote on new gun legislation post-Sandy Hook, advancing a bill sponsored by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.
Leahy's Judiciary Committee is considering four bills drafted in the wake of the December massacre at the elementary school in Connecticut. The first bill up for a vote was Leahy's own proposal on gun trafficking. It would explicitly make straw purchasing of firearms illegal-- that's when someone buys a gun on behalf of a criminal.
"Our bill is tough on criminals; it's drafted so they won't sweep in private sellers and buyers of firearms. But it's done in a way that we can deter those who would abuse the trust of a firearms dealer by engaging in straw purchasing," Leahy said.
Critics say the Leahy bill is unnecessary because straw purchases are already illegal -- and that the problem is lack of enforcement of existing laws. Republicans on the committee also argue the bill will have unintended consequences.
"This bill would make it a serious felony for an American Legion employee to negligently transfer a raffled firearm to a veteran, who, unknown to the transferor, suffers from PTSD," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
The bill does have some bipartisan support, with Iowa Senator Charles Grassley supporting the bill after Leahy agreed to a series of amendments.
"Since you have shown good faith, I will now demonstrate mine, as well," said Grassley, R-Iowa.
Grassley joined 10 Democrats in voting for the bill and it advanced to the Democratically controlled Senate floor on a vote of 11-7.
Work will continue next week on the other three bills before Leahy's committee, including an assault weapons ban, better background checks and improvements in school safety. Leahy has not specifically commented on those bills, but his previous votes and comments indicate he's likely to support them.
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