Senate Committee Passes Gun Trafficking Bill

Andrew D. Brosig, The Daily Sentinel/AP Photo

A Senate panel passed the first piece of proposed gun legislation out of committee Thursday morning with an 11 to 7 vote in favor of a bill to stem weapons trafficking.

The bill, which is sponsored by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would make "straw" purchasing, which occurs when a buyer buys a gun on behalf of someone who cannot legally purchase one, illegal.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was the lone Republican on the Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of the bill.

The committee is considering three additional measures today, including an assault weapons ban, a background check bill and school safety legislation.

While the gun trafficking bill made it out of committee early in the morning, the assault weapons ban and background check bill may not.

Grassley, the ranking member of the committee, voiced his own unease with the bills. He argued that the assault weapons ban would not have prevented the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and said that the background check bill could lead to a gun registry and higher confiscations.

On Wednesday, the background check bill hit a roadblock when Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., backed out of talks with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. on the measure, according to reports.

Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., expressed their own concerns with the bill Wednesday, saying they could not support it in its current language but vowed to continue conversations on the issue.

"We are committed to continuing to work in a bipartisan effort with Senators Schumer, Coburn and others in order to find a commonsense solution for enhanced background checks, however, Senator Schumer's current proposal is one we cannot support as it stands today," Manchin and Kirk said in a joint statement. "Our goal is to pass a bill that will close loopholes in the current background check process in a way that does not burden law-abiding citizens. Any bill we support will guarantee that Americans' Second Amendment rights are clearly protected. We simply want to make sure firearms do not end up in the hands of convicted criminals or people who are deemed mentally unstable by court ruling.

"While the bill Senator Schumer introduced today doesn't meet this standard, we will continue to work with Senator Schumer, Senator Coburn and other colleagues to find a commonsense compromise," Kirk and Manchin said.

President Obama has pushed for stronger background checks as a part of his proposals to curb gun violence in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. in December.