NEW YORK—Three months after the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the first of four bills aimed at tightening gun control in the United States, according to The Associated Press.
All four bills are up for discussion today, but it is unclear if votes will be cast for all four.
The first bill to pass this morning was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The bill passed by a vote of 11–7, according to AP. The bill, Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013 (S. 54), is aimed to deter and punish firearms trafficking. It includes a 20-year sentence for trafficking a firearm and a 30-year sentence for trafficking a firearm knowingly intended for use in a violent crime.
“I hope that as other Senators on both sides of the aisle become more familiar with our bipartisan proposal, they will understand how it provides law enforcement with the tools they need to go after those who engage in the straw purchasing and illegal trafficking of firearms,” stated Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a March 4 press release.
“The practice of straw purchasing is used for one thing—to put firearms into the hands of those that are prohibited by law from having them,” he added. “Many are then used to further violent crimes.”
The three other bills include an assault weapons ban, a bill expanding the criminal background check requirement to almost all gun purchases, and a bill to enhance school safety.
The bill expanding the background check program would expand the background check requirement beyond the current 55,000 licensed gun dealers. Currently, private gun sales, as well as those made online and at gun shows, do not require a background check.
Criminal background checks are performed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a branch of the FBI. Criminal background checks are a way to gauge firearm demand.
Following the December shootings in Newtown, Conn., criminal background checks skyrocketed to close to 2.8 million in December 2012, a 49.7-percent increase compared to the same time in 2011, according to NCIS data. The trend has continued into 2013 with more than double the amount of background checks in January compared to last year and a 32.5-percent increase in February compared to the same time last year, according to the NICS.
Once approved by the committee, the bills are expected go on the senate floor in April.