Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On S.54, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013

Senate Floor

[Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) spoke on the floor Monday night about the Judiciary Committee’s progress on legislation related to gun violence, including last week reporting out the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act. Leahy, who is chairman of the committee, authored the measure that has the strong support of many law enforcement organizations with a bipartisan group of Senators. In his floor statement Monday, Leahy called on Senators to continue working together, as they did earlier this year on the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, to pass common sense legislation related to gun violence.]

Last week I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Collins to combat the straw purchasing and trafficking of firearms.  We were joined by other Senators from both sides of the aisle. We have made good progress since then.  Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted for our bill as an amendment to the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, S.54.  This is the first legislative vote on measures related to gun violence in either the Senate or the House since the Newtown tragedy.  Every Democratic Senator on the Committee voted in favor of our bill and we were joined in that support by the Committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Grassley.  I appreciate Senator Grassley’s cooperation in getting our bill reported after weeks of consultation and I look forward to working closely with him as we move forward. 

The White House called the Judiciary Committee action “an important bipartisan step” that takes on “the very serious problem of gun trafficking.”  At the signing of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act last Thursday, the President called the Judiciary Committee’s action on our bill a “big step” and “real progress.”  He noted that our bill “would crack down on folks who buy guns only to turn around and funnel them to dangerous criminals.”

I want to continue to make progress on this legislation and other bills that can be effective in reducing illegal gun violence in our country.  We have the strong support of several leading law enforcement organizations including the Fraternal Order of Police, the FBI Agents Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.  Last week I received a letter from the NAACP lending their strong support to our efforts.  I thank all of these organizations for their assistance and support.  

Tomorrow, the Judiciary Committee will continue its work on three remaining gun violence measures that have been on our agenda for the past weeks:   Senator Schumer’s proposal to expand requirements for background checks, Senator Boxer’s proposal to enhance the safety of our schools, and Senator Feinstein’s bill to reinstitute an assault weapons ban.  I aim by the end of the week to have completed Judiciary Committee action on these legislative proposals.      

At the bill signing last Thursday, the President observed that we were able finally to pass the Violence Against Women and Trafficking Victims Protection legislation on a bipartisan basis because the American people spoke up.  That is what happened on VAWA when a group of House Republicans switched their position to support passing the VAWA bill that they had not supported last year.

That is what is also needed in the context of gun violence legislation. Seven of the eight Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee voted against closing the loophole in the law to combat straw purchasing and gun trafficking.   If we are going to be able to close loopholes in our background check system, improve school safety with more resources for resource officers that include counselors and officers, and if we are going to outlaw straw purchasing and gun trafficking, the American people need to speak up and be heard.  If Congress is going to place limits on high capacity clips, it will be because the American people demand such action. 

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