Picking up where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords left off, Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., are pushing bipartisan legislation to crack down on the use of ultralight aircraft to smuggle drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border.
Similar legislation introduced by Gifford, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head in Tucson in January, passed the House during the last Congress. Heller was a co-sponsor of that bill with Giffords when he was in the House and has teamed with Udall to press on for passage in the Senate.
Heller said in a statement the legislation would close a loophole in current law that allows traffickers who use ultralights to get off with a lesser sentence than those who get caught smuggling with vehicles or airplanes. The Heller-Udall bill would set the penalty for trafficking — no matter how it’s carried out — at a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“The use of ultralight aircrafts by drug smugglers has become more common because of their ability to fly low to the ground and take off and land quickly,” Heller said, adding that recent reports indicate that Mexican drug cartels have increased ultralight flights to drop marijuana and other drugs across the border.
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