Gillibrand Pushes Gun Trafficking Bill As Dems Seek To Appear Tough On Crime

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Democrats looking to distance themselves from the Defund Police movement that threatens to derail the party’s midterm election ambitions have increasingly used New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams as a living prop; from a White House meeting with Joe Biden to a press conference with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the former NYPD captain who’s vowed to crack down on criminals and “illegal guns” is the Democrats’ man of the moment.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is the latest to appear alongside Adams; on Monday the pair were in New York City as Gillibrand unveiled a gun trafficking bill that looks an awful lot like legislation she’s introduced before.

Speaking in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall, the senator from New York announced her plan to re-introduce a bill that she and a bipartisan group of lawmakers initially rolled out nearly a decade ago in response to the Connecticut shooting massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school.

“Everything has its own timeline,” Gillibrand said. “And this one’s ready. This could have passed eight years ago and it didn’t. It could have passed five years ago and it didn’t. We need a vote.”

Back in 2013, the bill, which seeks to make gun trafficking a federal crime for the very first time, garnered 58 votes in a Republican-controlled Senate—two shy of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster and pass.

The proposal would allow authorities to track down gun traffickers across state lines. It establishes a penalty of as much as 25 years in prison for those involved in gun trafficking rings and making straw purchases, or buying firearms for someone legally prohibited from doing so.

The senator said that there is currently no authority for the FBI or even NYPD to be part of cross-state investigations tracing the sale of illegal weapons.

The way Gillibrand describes it, law enforcement are currently stymied from investigating interstate gun-running operations, which simply isn’t the case. Take this recent bust involving three men and a plan to sell guns originally purchased in South Carolina on the streets of Essex County, New Jersey.

Torell Brown, 45, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, Carter Wilkerson, 21, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, and Mark Washington, 57, of Irvington, New Jersey, are each charged by criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to engage in the business of unlicensed firearms dealing. Brown and Washington are each additionally charged with one count of possession of firearms and ammunition by a convicted felon.

Brown, Wilkerson, and Washington were arrested May 18, 2021, and appeared by videoconference today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer. Brown and Washington were detained; Wilkerson was released on $100,000 unsecured bond.

Now, the federal statute involved may not specifically involve “gun trafficking,” but “conspiracy to engage in the business of unlicensed firearms” sounds an awful lot like the same thing.

In fact, the biggest difference between the laws currently on the books and what Gillibrand is proposing is the potential sentence that the New York senator would apply to those convicted of her new offense. The 25-year federal prison term proposed for gun traffickers is more than twice as long as the maximum sentence imposed on violent felons found in illegal possession of a firearm, which begs the question; why isn’t Gillibrand simply proposing increasing the sentences for those individuals instead?

I wish I knew the answer, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Democrats would still rather get tough on guns than tough on crime. For Gillibrand, a one-time pro-2A congresswoman who reversed course and embraced an anti-gun ideology as soon as she was promoted to the Senate, the push for a federal gun trafficking law is nothing new or surprising. It’s also not particularly useful in fighting violent crime, given that the vast majority of criminals are acquiring their guns through theft, family, or friends. Still, with Democrats looking to chalk up anything they can call a victory, and with Gillibrand’s previous gun trafficking bill drawing some support from Republicans, don’t be surprised if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer decides to push Gillibrand’s legislation in the weeks ahead.