Prepared Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley
Senate Judiciary Committee
Executive Business Meeting
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Gun Trafficking/Straw Purchasing, S. 54
Mr. Chairman, I greatly appreciate the substitute amendment that you are offering today on S. 54. I have offered an amendment to the bill, which I will discuss separately.
Federal legislation needed on the subjects of straw purchasing and gun trafficking will help strengthen efforts to combat illicit firearms.
When I conducted my oversight of the Justice Department’s failed Operation Fast and Furious, I was told by whistleblowers that there were gaps in federal law concerning straw purchasers that should be addressed. And I agree.
Mr. Chairman, you have worked with me on your bill, making many changes at my request. They have made the bill better and reduced the negative side effects of previous versions. I trust you think so as well, because you have included the changes in a new bill.
The new bill, and your substitute amendment to S. 54, also include a revised bill from Senators Gillibrand and Kirk on the subject of gun trafficking. Those revisions also reflect changes that I asked Senator Gillibrand to make.
I think it would be worthwhile to outline all the changes that have been made to the bills since they were first introduced. I think they demonstrate your good faith, Mr. Chairman, and that of Senator Gillibrand.
So, for instance, Senator Gillibrand’s bill originally would have made it a federal crime to transport two or more guns if that person knew that the result would be a violation of state or local law. That would have given states and localities a one-way incentive to add new gun control measures and foist the cost of prosecution and incarceration on the federal government. It also would have created for the first time a situation in which violation of a state criminal law was an element of a federal offense. She took that provision out at my request.
I raised a similar concern about language in your bill as well, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you for also removing that language.
Senator Gillibrand also accepted major and minor drafting suggestions, including clarifying what intent was necessary to commit the crime, harmonizing penalties, changing the gift exception, altering the directive for the Sentencing Commission, and others.
Compared to when S. 54 was originally introduced, it is now directed only at straw purchasers, not all transfers on behalf of another.
This allows people to buy for people as part of a legitimate business. It preserves private sales. Now the bill goes to actual straw purchasers: those who purchase a gun on behalf of a prohibited person.
Like Senator Gillibrand, you harmonized penalties and removed references to federalizing violations of State or local law. You made changes regarding sales to persons who do not reside in a state. You took out language concerning materiality of false statements on the forms. You separated the rules for purchases from licensed dealers from those for private sales. You limited the bill to engaging indirectly in conduct that is already illegal.
You have protected the rights of law-abiding citizens, in ways that I believe were not protected in either the original straw purchasing bill or the original trafficking bill. As a result of the changes to each bill, and to their combination in the substitute, the bill now covers only criminals and not law-abiding citizens.
And since you have shown good faith, I will now demonstrate mine as well.
Some on my side believe the bill needs more work to resolve outstanding issues between now and when the bill goes to the floor. That is something that I hope will happen with the Chairman’s help. With that understanding, and if my amendment is adopted, I will vote to report the bill out of Committee today.
Thank you for what you have done so far, Mr. Chairman.