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Against Gun Trafficking

July 19, 2011 — Press conference, US Capitol, Washington DC


I believe most Americans would be astonished to discover that the United States has no gun trafficking law against trafficking in long guns such as AK-47s and 50 caliber assault weapons. So without most Americans even realizing it, we have tied the hands of law enforcement to a pursuit of paper violations for which there are only technical federal laws. U.S. attorneys are reduced to charging people who have purchased large quantities of guns with low-level paper violations because they did not tell the truth when they filled out the required forms to indicate that a purchaser is purchasing a gun for his own personal use. As you might imagine, U.S. attorneys with caseloads full of felonies do not usually pursue such violations when there is no penalty sufficient to discourage the real crime which is trafficking. This serious gap in federal law has fueled huge blocks of gun sales to traffickers, perhaps most notoriously to Mexico where the government is in an all-out war against traffickers and their clients.

This hole in our law is just as venal here as gangs and criminals use the same purchases for assault weapons that are commonly confiscated by police departments following criminal activity. Traffickers do not buy arms, long arms, like AK-47s as gun collectors. Perhaps most often they are protecting the delivery of their goods, and their commodities of choice, of course, are illegal drugs.

A law against trafficking in long guns is also a strong weapon against drug trafficking. Our bill has multiple different benefits. It is a deterrent against illegal proliferation of long guns that have taken a tragic toll in human life, and our anti-trafficking bill would also be a new and powerful weapon and deterrent in the nation’s long struggle against illegal drugs. And we must go further and enact our bill to cover trafficking in long guns that have become a menace on the streets and the chief enabler of the drug cartels. Thank you.