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February 6, 2013 (Congressional Quarterly)

groups on left and right question gun trafficking bill

In the lastest issue of Congressional Quarterly, reporter John Gramlich writes that three weeks after President Barack Obama asked Congress to pass an array of measures to reduce gun violence, only one of his proposals-- a new federal crackdown on gun trafficker-- has drawn co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

But even that idea, Gramlich writes,"faces skepticism from two rarely aligned advocacy groups"-- the National Rifle Association, which promotes gun rights, and The Sentencing Project, which lobbies against tougher criminal sentences.

For different reasons,he notes,"the two organizations argue that a new gun trafficking law may be unnecessary and that prosecutors can use existing statutes to go after 'straw purchasers' who buy firearms for those legally barred from doing so."

“If the problem you’re getting at is deterrence of illegal gun sales, there’s research that shows that more prosecution of laws that are already on the books might do more to deter these sales than stiffer sentences,” said Jeremy Haile, federal advocacy counsel at The Sentencing Project, which is concerned that tougher criminal penalties could result in more prison crowding without deterring crime.

Haile said he was not surprised that Democrats and Republicans have coalesced around a proposal to create a new federal trafficking crime, calling that a politically popular step that would not have prevented the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14.

“It’s something that some of us saw coming awhile back, as soon as this happened in December,” he said. “What both sides, unfortunately, can agree on is getting tougher on crime. It can be ironic because, in the case of Newtown, it’s not clear that there was any crime that led to that young man having that gun.”

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration