Senators Collins, Leahy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Gun Trafficking, which Contributes to Maine’s Heroin Crisis

Bill aims to eliminate straw purchasing of firearms, which is directly linked to the heroin epidemic

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Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, legislation that aims to strengthen federal law to make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute gun traffickers.  Traffickers target individuals who can lawfully purchase firearms and then use those weapons in other crimes.  This practice contributes to Maine’s heroin crisis, since criminals will often give individuals drugs in exchange for firearms.
 
“We’ve had many discussions in this chamber, in our caucuses, and in our committees about the heroin crisis that is gripping far too many families and communities in states across the nation, including the state of Maine,” said Senator Collins.  “We need to take a comprehensive approach that includes strengthening law enforcement, providing treatment, and increasing education and prevention efforts. This bill is one piece of the law enforcement puzzle as we seek to combat this terrible epidemic that is ruining so many lives.”
 
There is currently no law that explicitly makes straw purchasing a crime, and it is only unlawful to traffic a firearm if the transferor had actual knowledge that the firearm would be used in connection with a crime.  At present, straw purchasers can only be prosecuted for lying on a federal form, a paperwork violation.  The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act would increase penalties for those straw purchasers who know or have reasonable cause to believe that they are buying firearms for prohibited persons or that those guns will later be used for violent crimes.
 
“Our bill would provide law enforcement with an effective tool to fight the violence that too often goes hand in hand with drug trafficking,” Senator Collins continued.  “Straw purchasing and the trafficking of firearms put guns directly in the hands of drug dealers and violent criminals who smuggle heroin into Maine.”
 
Firearms trafficking is an increasingly significant problem in New England, where the surge in opioid abuse has exposed a “guns for drugs” trade.  The recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, is another tragic example of how straw purchasing can lead to horrific crimes.  The rifles in that shooting were allegedly acquired through a straw purchaser. 
 
Senators Collins and Leahy’s bill does not affect lawful purchases from federal firearms licensees, nor does it prohibit the innocent transfer of a firearm as a gift, or in relation to a legitimate raffle, auction or contest.  The measure is supported by numerous law enforcement organizations, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Tactical Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.