(NBC NEWS) -- A bipartisan group of senators has reached a deal on a bill that
would make it a federal crime to buy a gun for someone who isn't legally
allowed to own one.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy announced the agreement on the Senate floor Monday evening.
gun "straw" purchases, made by a buyer on behalf of someone who cannot
pass a background check, are often not prosecuted under current law,
usually because conducting such a sale yields such a weak penalty.
new compromise legislation would make the consequences for both straw
buyers and sellers far more serious - to the tune of decades in jail.
of a slap on the wrist or treating this like a paperwork violation,
these crimes under our bill would be punishable by up to 25 years in
prison," Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said.
In broad strokes, cracking down on gun trafficking has wide support
in both parties and isn't intensely controversial, as other potential
gun control measures are. A bipartisan group of House members have
already introduced a similar trafficking bill in that chamber.
National Rifle Association appears to be reaching out to minorities in
its fights against new gun laws. TheGrio.com's Earl Ofari Hutchinson
responds to the ad.
The Senate legislation will include
penalties for the straw purchaser as well as for the gun seller. Collins
is a cosponsor, as is Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. Sens. Kirsten
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Blumenthal, D-
Conn., have also signed on.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will
take up the trafficking bill on Thursday, when it also plans to consider
three other pieces of gun control legislation: an assault weapons ban, a
school safety measure and a bill to require background checks for all
With an assault weapons ban all but doomed to fail,
the focus is still on the universal background check bill. Democratic
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Charles Schumer of New York have
been negotiating with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., but those talks have
mostly stalled over disagreements about whether to require that private
sellers keep records of private gun sales.
"We're working through all that and Tom will make a decision at the end where he is on the bill," Manchin said Monday.
told reporters late Monday that he spoke by phone with President Barack
Obama earlier in the day, but would not elaborate on the subject of
Democrats have been circulating the potential
background check bill to other Republican senators as they continue
talking to Coburn. Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake
have both been involved, as has Collins.
It's unlikely that
they'll reach a deal before Thursday's planned Judiciary Committee
markup, Democratic aides said Monday. If there's no deal, the committee
would take up a background check bill that Democrats wrote during the
Manchin said he hoped to reach a deal before the
committee meeting. "We're trying. But if not, it's not the end of the
world," he said.
Negotiations around background checks could then
continue until the bill reaches the Senate floor. The National Rifle
Association opposes universal background checks; Coburn has an "A"
rating from that group.
Asked which Republican senators might
emerge as a potential cosponsor if Coburn decides not to, Manchin told
NBC News: "I think that anybody that comes from the gun culture,
especially those that have had A ratings."
Senate Democratic aides
say the chamber is likely to consider gun legislation on the Senate
floor during the first week of April.
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