Justice Department: We Have Secured Over 500 Prosecutions Under New Firearms Statutes Enacted By Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

By DOJ

Photos: Wikimedia Commons\YouTube Screenshots

The Justice Department announced it has charged more than 500 defendants under the new criminal provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which Congress enacted, and the President signed in June 2022. The Act is the first standalone federal statute specifically designed to target the unlawful trafficking and straw-purchasing of firearms.

“Criminals rely on illegal gun traffickers and straw purchasers to obtain the weapons they use to harm our communities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department is using the new tools given to us in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to hold accountable those who fuel gun violence.”

The BSCA was passed in the wake of the tragic mass shootings — including at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Topps Grocery Store in Buffalo, New York, and a house of worship in Laguna Woods, California — that, together with the gun violence experienced in our communities every day, reverberates through our families, communities, and entire nation. As the first significant gun safety legislation in decades, the BSCA provided powerful new tools to prosecute firearms traffickers and address gun violence.

Some recent cases include charging five individuals in Texas for allegedly trafficking military grade firearms to a drug cartel in Mexico; a three year sentence in New Mexico for illegal sale of firearms, including machineguns, and the illegal possession and transfer of machineguns; and a 10 year sentence in Pennsylvania for unlawful possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of ghost guns sold as part of “hit kits.”

The new statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 933 and 932, directly prohibit straw purchasing and firearms trafficking and significantly enhance the penalties for those crimes, providing for up to 15 years in prison. Criminals and prohibited individuals seek out straw purchasers, who lie about who is actually buying the firearm, because, by necessity, straw purchasers do not have a criminal history. The stronger penalty provisions enhance deterrence, signaling to potential straw purchasers and others involved in trafficking that these are serious offenses and not mere “paperwork violations” or victimless crimes.

Although there is more to be done, reaching this milestone shows that federal prosecutors and agents, as well as our state, local, Tribal, and territorial partners throughout the United States, have been using these new authorities to take a monumental step in addressing gun violence.

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