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house Bill H.R. 4939

Should Penalties for Straw Purchases of Firearms be Increased?

Argument in favor

Straw purchases of firearms are the leading source of trafficked guns, which are in turn often used in violent crimes. Increasing the punishment for this crime will help both deter the crime itself and more severely punish those who commit it in a manner that’s commensurate with their crimes.

Scott's Opinion
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11/23/2019
Yes, if it’s actually a deterrent...but if it’s not enforced, then it’s a moot point. How about establishing minimum guidelines that judges have to follow too?
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Rebekah 's Opinion
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11/23/2019
Certainly! There’s no excuse for a mass shooting a week. Stop letting gun manufacturers set public policy!
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Ron's Opinion
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11/23/2019
Yeah right. The feds don’t prosecute these crimes to begin with, what would be the point of increasing the penalties when they don’t bother with it now. According to the feds only less then 18% of all gun related crimes are ever prosecuted. Like, what happened to the other 82% dude. I’d be happy if they got off their ass now.
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Argument opposed

Straw purchases of firearms are already illegal at the federal level and have strong penalties (a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years imprisonment). There’s no need to further raise the punishment for this crime. Instead, Congress should crack down on gun sellers with a track record of selling guns that are later tied to crimes.

jimK's Opinion
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11/23/2019
If the current fines go as high as $250,000 and 10 years imprisonment, I have a hard time understanding the need for this legislation. If sentencing guidelines need adjustment, I believe this can handled without legislation. I feel this is one of those ‘look, I did something good!’ packages for election year creds- when, in fact it does nothing. I wish congress would take action to stop this time wasting practice.
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Robert (steve)'s Opinion
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11/23/2019
The fines and penalties are high enough. What is lacking is the enforcement, background checks and the willingness to go against the NRA because of the money. Completely tired of representatives whoring themselves out for campaign contributions. Things have to change, we have to get back to the point were right is right.
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larubia's Opinion
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11/23/2019
We don’t need another law to mimic one that already exists. We need enforcement of the current law!
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What is House Bill H.R. 4939?

This bill — the STOP Straw Purchases Act — would amend the federal criminal code to establish new offenses for straw purchases of firearms. Specifically, this bill would create new federal offenses for inducing another person to make false statements to a licensed gun dealer about the actual identity of a firearm purchaser; and for obtaining a firearm by inducing another person to make false statements to a licensed gun dealer claiming to be the actual firearm purchaser.

This bill would also establish an enhanced penalty for a criminal offense involving a false statement to a licensed gun dealer in connection with a firearm acquisition, if the false statement misrepresents the actual identify of a firearm purchaser. The maximum punishment for the purchase and the receiver (defined as a person who transfers a firearm with reasonable cause to believe it will be used in a drug crime or violent crime) would be increased to a fine of up to $750,000 and a prison term of up to 25 years. Current law allows a fine of up to $250,000 and a person term of up to 10 years.

This bill also includes a “Kingpin Clause” that would make it illegal for any person affecting interstate commerce to have straw purchasers acquire firearms to enable a gun trafficking enterprise. This clause would affect anyone trying to traffic weapons across state lines, and would subject the kingpin to a fine of up to $1 million and a prison term of up to 30 years.

Finally, this bill would direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to include a statement outlining penalties for acting as the straw purchaser of a firearm on the Firearms Transaction Record form.

Impact

Firearms purchasers; firearms sellers; straw purchases of firearms; and punishment for straw purchasers of firearms.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 4939

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to increase penalties for purchasing firearms for prohibited persons:

“Most of the gun-related crime is committed by someone who should not have access to a firearm, but they are able to get it because someone else makes the purchase. Local law enforcement have said this is one of their top priorities. This was the case with Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco who was killed in the line of duty and the gun used was obtained through a straw purchase. The purchaser walked away with a slap on the wrist. By closing loopholes and increasing maximum punishments for violators, this legislation will help to deter criminals from illegally obtaining firearms and bring justice and safety to our affected communities.”

Original cosponsor Rep. Gil Cisernos (D-CA) adds

“We must do more to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country and get illegal firearms off the streets and out of our communities. Data shows that straw purchases account for a high volume of trafficked guns and that gun dealers are often willing to sell guns to people who are asking to purchase guns on behalf of someone else. I’m proud to join Congressman Bacon in this common-sense legislation that supports our law enforcement and keeps guns out of the hands of those who should not have access to a firearm.”

This legislation has two bipartisan cosponsors (one from each party) in the 116th Congress. Last Congress, it had one cosponsor, Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), and didn’t receive a committee vote.


Of NoteStraw purchasing — gun purchases in which the purchaser is actually buying a gun on a prohibited purchaser’s behalf instead of for themselves — is the most common channel identified in gun trafficking investigations. According to a national survey of firearm licensees, there are over 30,000 attempted straw purchases each year, and more than two-thirds (66%) of gun dealers experienced at least one attempted straw purchase in the year before the survey. In another investigation, researchers found that one in five (20%) of gun dealers were willing to sell guns to people explicitly asking to buy firearms for others.

Jonathan Lowy, vice president of litigation at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says “about 90% of gun dealers sell zero weapons that are traced to crimes in a given year,” while “about 5% of gun dealers selling [to] virtually the entire criminal market.”

Currently, Title 18 of the U.S. Code makes straw purchases a federal offense because straw purchasers make false statements to federally licensed firearms dealers on behalf of purchasers who are prohibited from buying firearms. People prohibited from buying firearms include: convicted felons, those convicted of domestic violence, juveniles, the mentally ill, those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military, and unlawful users of controlled substances.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / AndreyPopov)

AKA

STOP Straw Purchases Act

Official Title

To amend title 18, United States Code, to combat straw purchases of firearms.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedOctober 31st, 2019
    Yes, if it’s actually a deterrent...but if it’s not enforced, then it’s a moot point. How about establishing minimum guidelines that judges have to follow too?
    Like (21)
    Follow
    Share
    If the current fines go as high as $250,000 and 10 years imprisonment, I have a hard time understanding the need for this legislation. If sentencing guidelines need adjustment, I believe this can handled without legislation. I feel this is one of those ‘look, I did something good!’ packages for election year creds- when, in fact it does nothing. I wish congress would take action to stop this time wasting practice.
    Like (78)
    Follow
    Share
    The fines and penalties are high enough. What is lacking is the enforcement, background checks and the willingness to go against the NRA because of the money. Completely tired of representatives whoring themselves out for campaign contributions. Things have to change, we have to get back to the point were right is right.
    Like (24)
    Follow
    Share
    We don’t need another law to mimic one that already exists. We need enforcement of the current law!
    Like (21)
    Follow
    Share
    Why do we have this redundant regulations? Straw purchases of firearms are already illegal at the federal level and have strong penalties (a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years imprisonment). What benefit is there to further raise the punishment for this crime. Instead, Congress should crack down on gun sellers with a track record of selling guns that are later tied to crimes.
    Like (14)
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    Doesn’t matter how severe the penalty is if they’re not enforced.
    Like (14)
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    If the current fines go as high as $250,000 and 10 years imprisonment, I have a hard time understanding the need for this legislation. If sentencing guidelines need adjustment, I believe this can handled without legislation. I feel this is one of those ‘look, I did something good!’ packages for election year creds- when, in fact is does nothing. I wish congress would take action to stop this time wasting practice.
    Like (10)
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    Fine and imprisonment are already sufficiently high as a deterrent by most American standards. Apply the effort and weight to cracking down on the sellers and rings above seller. It’s the same question as illicit drugs (I’m not classifying marijuana in this group) - do you hit the individual user, the street seller, the distributor or the producer?
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    No, officer Orozco died because her killer was a violent gang member with repeat offenses who was allowed to walk free. We need to properly enforce the law against violent offenders, not punish single moms who are pressured into buying a gun for their abusive boyfriend. This bill will do nothing to stop crime.
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    I am only going to say “nay” for one reason. Until you pass mandatory background checks on every gun purchase, including gun shows. Where not all dealers have an FFL, any felon can purchase a gun for him or herself. It does not say you are a felon on the drivers license. So all they have to do when asked is lie. Now most of the people at gun shows keep no records ie, serial numbers, makes, model. Because they don’t have an FFL and most are avoiding paying any sales taxes if they take cash. For now I say nay. Until you pass real legislation that will keep guns out of felons hands. And honestly any FFL dealer doesn’t mind doing a background check for someone who doesn’t have an FFL at these shows. They just charge a $15-$25 fee and extend that to the purchaser. You could still have gun shows but all unlicensed dealers would have to get FFL dealers at the show to run the background checks for them. None of this is asking too much.
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    Certainly! There’s no excuse for a mass shooting a week. Stop letting gun manufacturers set public policy!
    Like (6)
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    Yes.
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    The current law equates to the same amount of time some people do for murder. This law is fine.
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    No increase
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    This is not enough. This bill tickles the edges of a great republican sickness for firearms, and does little to solve the problem except make the republican who wrote the bill feel sanctimonious. No, this is too little too late.
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    I think 10yrs in prison and fined up to $250,000 is a pretty stiff penalty. I also don’t believe this is a big source of guns being supplied for illegal markets so without statistical data to support this I don’t think increasing the penalty will stop anything. We just need to enforce the law as it is then anyone caught will be off the street for 10yrs and unable to purchase a firearm when he gets out so no repeat offenders.
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    Yeah right. The feds don’t prosecute these crimes to begin with, what would be the point of increasing the penalties when they don’t bother with it now. According to the feds only less then 18% of all gun related crimes are ever prosecuted. Like, what happened to the other 82% dude. I’d be happy if they got off their ass now.
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    Is this a way for ya’all to pay for the new socialism running rampant in Washington, DC? Try focusing on addictions and mental health and homelessness.
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    Fine and penalty increases are useless if not enforced. Enforce the laws already on the books and stop with these toothless changes. Sometimes I think you politicians want more crime in order to crate more laws!
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    Anything to control the use of guns.
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