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GOP and Dems Agree on Beefing Up Illegal Gun Penalties

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Wednesday, 06 Feb 2013 11:21 AM

They continue to butt heads on the outright ban on assault weapons, but Republicans and Democrats have joined together on one key element of gun control: beefing up penalties for the purchase and transport of illegal firearms.

The New York Times reports that two Republicans and two Democrats have proposed the creation of a federal anti-gun-trafficking law. The legislation would zero in on those who buy guns for others and lie about it on federal background checks.

"Unless you're a gun trafficker, unless you're a person who's a straw purchaser, there's really no problem with this," Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell, a Republican sponsor of the bill, told the Times.

"[People] are begging us to address this problem," added Maryland Rep.
Elijah Cummings, one of the Democratic sponsors, whose 20-year-old nephew was fatally shot in 2011 in what police said was a random break-in.
The Senate's companion bill is sponsored by Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat.

The Times says anti-trafficking laws "enjoy broad support from law enforcement agencies because they would help tackle a huge problem for police forces in major cities." Meanwhile, Democratic senators reportedly want to postpone the battle over an assault weapons ban.

Politico reports California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and sponsor of the ban, is weighing whether to propose it at an upcoming Judiciary Committee markup, a move that may spoil the Democrats' "carefully-hatched" strategy to handle the controversial gun-control debate.

Democrats fear that route "could ironically end up sinking a new universal background checks bill considered a key piece of President Barack Obama's gun control agenda that stands a serious chance of passing the Senate," according to Politico.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declined to endorse Feinstein's proposal, and he worked to defeat a renewal of an assault weapons ban in 2009.

The Hill reports Reid is not eager to press his centrist colleagues to take a politically dangerous vote to pass gun control measures if they will only stall in the House.

"The logic of Senate Republicans and some Senate Democrats is, 'If the House won't pick it up, much less pass it, why would we stick our necks out?'" a strategist tracking the Senate debate told The Hill.

And in Colorado Tuesday, Democrats proposed numerous new gun-control laws, but none of them included banning assault weapons.

The legislation would make private gun sales subject to background checks, limit ammunition clips to 10 rounds, and hold manufacturers and dealers of assault rifles liable for deaths or injuries from those guns, according to The Times.

While Colorado has been ravaged by some of the worst gun violence in the nation's history — the Columbine High School and Aurora movie theater massacres — opposition to the proposals is still expected.

"It will be a fight," State Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat whose son was  shot and killed eight years ago, told The Times.

In another development, the entertainment world is entering the gun control arena, with comedian Chris Rock expected to go to Capitol Hill to support the Obama administration's gun control package.

Politico says Rock, Tony Bennett, Amanda Peet and other performers are aligned with DemandAPlan.org, which wants criminal background checks for all guns sold in the United States and the ban of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

"Gun control? We need bullet control! I think every bullet should cost $5,000. Because if a bullet cost five thousand dollars, we wouldn¹t have any innocent bystanders," Rock said in his stand-up act, Politico reports.

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