Gillibrand, Adams announce federal gun trafficking legislation

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., left, and Eric Adams, the Democratic candidate for mayor, discuss a gun trafficking bill, Monday, July 19, 2021, in New York. The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act seeks to address the illegal transfer of guns across state lines by establishing gun trafficking as a federal crime.
Associated Press / Mark Lennihan

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams, stood in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday to announce the Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act.

Named for two teenage girls in Brooklyn and Chicago, IL, the bill seeks to address the illegal transfer of guns across state lines by establishing gun trafficking as a federal crime.

The measure would provide law enforcement and prosecutors with the tools to go after those directly involved in the illegal movement of guns across state lines, gun dealers acting illegally, individuals who organize the gun trafficking rings, and those who conspire to traffic guns. Sen. Gillibrand will be reintroducing the bill this week.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are more than 400, 000 gun crimes committed resulting in about 14,000 homicides each year.

Estimates from the New York Attorney General’s office have found that in 9 out of 10 of these crimes in New York City, where the gun has been successfully traced, it originated from out of state.

Despite the illegal movement of guns across state lines, there is currently no federal law to define gun trafficking as a crime.

A lack of federal law results in law enforcement and prosecutors having to rely on a patchwork of state regulations to crack down on criminal networks that makes prosecutions difficult and convictions nearly impossible.

The re-introduction of the legislation comes as shooting incidents have spiked by 73 percent in New York City since May 2020, driven in part by the proliferation of illegal handguns.

“Right now, there’s no federal law that defines gun trafficking across state lines as a crime,” Gillibrand said. “We need to make gun trafficking a federal crime, so that we can keep these illegal guns off our streets and out of the hands of those who would not be allowed to buy them legally.

“The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act is a commonsense reform that is urgently needed,” she added. “I want to especially thank Jennifer Pryear, Nyasia’s mother, for her strength, vision, and tireless advocacy on behalf of her daughter and other parents who have lost children to gun violence.

“In order to be successful in getting these weapons off our streets, we must listen to and follow the leadership of those closest to the violence, whose experience can inform equitable solutions,” continued the New York junior senator.

Adams, the Democratic nominee for New York City Mayor, said gun violence has “unfortunately become the norm in communities across our city – especially Black, Brown, and poor communities.

“We know a major driver of this crisis is the over-proliferation of handguns in these communities,” he said. “I am renewing my call for a Joint Gun and Gang Task Force to deal with the surge in gang-related activity and gun violence in New York.

“We also need a coordinated effort at the federal, state, and city level to stop the flow of guns into our communities and deter gun trafficking, which is why I’m proud to support the Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act,” Adams added. “I thank Sen. Gillibrand for her leadership on this critical issue.”

The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act would amend the Federal Criminal Code to make trafficking in firearms a federal crime.

It would make it unlawful to ship or receive two or more firearms where the individual knows or has reason to believe the firearms were unlawfully obtained.

The legislation would also address firearms trafficking at each stage, going after individuals who buy two or more guns with the intent to illegally transfer them to a person who is legally prohibited from possessing a firearm, gun dealers who illegally sell firearms to traffickers, and persons who conspire with and organize gun trafficking rings.

In addition, the measure would establish stiff penalties to deter gun trafficking.

Traffickers could face up to 20 years in prison and be fined up to $250,000 under Title 18 of the federal criminal code.

The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act would add penalties for a gun trafficker acting in concert with five or more other people where the individual is an organizer, has a supervisory position, or any other position of management.

Individual may be sentenced to an additional term of imprisonment up to five consecutive years, according to the measure.

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