Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation this week that aims to make trafficking in illegal firearms a federal crime.
Her bill, the Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act, would also support law enforcement as it works to remove these illegal weapons from the street, and help prosecute those who engage in firearm trafficking, according to a statement from Gillibrand's office.
Nearly 70 percent of the 8,539 firearms "recovered and traced" in New York originated from outside the state in 2013, according to the most recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But Gillibrand says there is no current federal law identifying firearm trafficking as a crime.
"Month after month, year after year, illegal guns tear apart communities across New York and our country and yet there is not a single federal law defining gun trafficking as a crime – enough is enough," Gillibrand said in a statement. "Senator Kirk and I are introducing this bipartisan legislation to crack down on the flow of illegal guns and to give law enforcement the tools to prosecute gun traffickers and their vast criminal networks."
The legislation would make it illegal to sell or provide two or more guns to someone who is not allowed to own a gun, such as a felon or convicted domestic abuser. It would be illegal to knowingly buy guns in violation of any law that identifies the recipient as ineligible to attain such weapons. The bill also would punish those who provide misleading information to the ATF, and punish those who facilitate any of the previous three actions, according to the press release.
The bill would establish harsher penalties such as a 20-year maximum prison sentence for those engaging in or conspiring to traffic firearms. Five additional years would be established for leaders of a gun trafficking ring. Gang members and other "criminal enterprises" would receive even harsher sentences if convicted, according to the statement.
Kirk said that gun trafficking has resulted in more than 1,300 shootings in Chicago this year. The bill is named for two victims of gun violence: Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old student, who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013, and Nyasia Pryear-Yard, a 17-year-old honor student who was killed with an illegal gun in Brooklyn, according to the press release.
"In honor of Hadiya Pendleton, we owe it to future generations to put an end to the gun trafficking that plays a huge role in the senseless violence that is taking lives in Chicago and throughout the country every day," said Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., a cosponsor of the bill.
Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said current federal laws against gun trafficking are lacking and do little to "deter or punish illegal trafficking."
"In fact, someone who traffics gun receives the same punishment as someone who traffics chickens or other livestock," Barrett said, according to Gillibrand's statement.
Ted Alcorn, research director of Everytown for Gun Safety, said these loose gun trafficking laws "endanger communities everywhere" as the weapons are moved to harm "our fellow citizens and law enforcement officers."
"We can stop the flow of illegal guns and save innocent lives," Gillibrand said.