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Gillibrand pushing legislation to fight gun trafficking between states

Ellen Abbott
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand with anti-gun violence activists in Syracuse.

There are no federal laws that prevent the trafficking of illegal guns between states. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants to change that, and is finding support in central New York.

Tonya Dugan, of Phoenix, is the mom of a young child. And that’s what she says has pushed her to join the ranks of anti-gun activists.

“What spurred me to take action was when we started looking at pre-K for my son, and I found I was terrified to send him.”

Dugan, who’s organized a chapter of the group Moms Demand Action in central New York, was one of several stakeholders in Syracuse last week pledging support for federal legislation that Gillibrand believes could make a dent in the number of illegal guns in New York state.   

The senator is backing a law that would for the first time make gun trafficking a federal crime. The problem, says Gillibrand, is that there’s no stopping the so called “iron pipeline,” a route used to smuggle illegal weapons from states in the South with more lenient gun laws, to states in the North that have tougher gun control policies. Gillibrand says the legislation would help police.

"[It gives] the actual authority to go trace a gun to the original buyer and seller in Georgia, and find out who bought the gun, who sold the gun, and hold them responsible for selling them in New York,” said Gillibrand.

The issue of illegal guns is particularly acute in the city of Syracuse, according to Police Chief Frank Fowler.

“More than 90 percent of the guns involved in illegal incidents within the  city of Syracuse, more than 90 percent are illegally possessed," said Fowler.

And most of those guns in Syracuse, when they can be traced, are coming from the state of Georgia.

Gillibrand is optimistic that the legislation will make it through the Republican-dominated Senate. The Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act garnered 58 votes when it was first introduced three years ago, just short of a filibuster-proof majority.

"The gun lobby’s successful in preventing all reform. But this is so common sense, it doesn’t make sense to stand against it. So if we can rewrite the bill to attract those last few senators, we can pass it,” Gillibrand.

The senator says while it won’t bring all illegal guns off the streets, it’s a start.

"It shouldn’t be this easy. And so we want to at least plug up this hole, and then go after the other ones.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.