Durbin Supports Legislation to Crack Down on Flow of Illegal Guns to Illinois

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced his support of legislation aimed at cracking down on the daily flow of illegal guns on our nation’s streets.  The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act of 2015 would make gun trafficking a federal crime and provide tools to law enforcement to get illegal guns off the streets, away from criminal networks and street gangs, and to prosecute those who traffic firearms.


Durbin joined this week with U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to introduce the legislation which is similar to bipartisan legislation that received 58 votes in the U.S. Senate in 2013 – just two votes shy of breaking a filibuster.


“Gun trafficking is one of the key drivers of gun violence in Chicago,” Durbin said. “The Senate came close to passing meaningful anti-trafficking legislation in the last Congress, but we have more work to do.  This bipartisan bill will crack down on the illegal trafficking of guns and impose strict federal punishments on those who supply guns to criminals.”

Under current law, there is no criminal statute specifically prohibiting trafficking in firearms. Instead, prosecutors rely primarily on laws that prohibit making false statements in connection with the purchase of a firearm. These are “paperwork” violations with penalties too low to be effective law enforcement tools. The result is that none of our laws are directly focused on preventing someone from one state from driving to another state with stricter gun laws, parking their car in a parking lot, and selling hundreds of firearms out of their trunk. 


In 2013, just 10 states supplied nearly half – 48 percent – of the guns that crossed state lines before being recovered in crimes. Together, these states accounted for nearly 23,000 interstate crime guns recovered.


According to a 2013 report by Third Way, there are roughly 500,000 gun crimes every year in the United States. In 9 of 10 gun crimes where the gun was successfully traced, the person who bought it was not the person who used it in the crime. The report also said that 1 in 3 crime guns has crossed state lines.  The report concluded that guns are purchased in the legal market and then move into the illegal market, and gun trafficking serves as a pipeline that delivers guns into the hands of criminals.


Today’s legislation is named for two gun violence victims. In January 2013, Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old student at King College Prep in Chicago, was killed when shots were fired into a crowd with the intention of hitting a rival gang member. In 2009, 17-year-old honor student Nyasia Pryear-Yard was shot and killed by an illegal gun while with friends in Brooklyn. Witnesses said that the shooting appeared to be a response to a man shouting gang epithets from the stage.


The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act of 2015 would empower local, state, and federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute gun traffickers and their entire criminal networks, including gangs, cartels and organized crime rings. Specifically, the bill will make it illegal to do the following:


  • Sell or otherwise transfer two or more firearms to someone whom the seller knows, or has reasonable cause to know, is prohibited by Federal, State or local laws from owning a firearm (e.g. felon, convicted domestic abuser).


  • Purchase or otherwise acquire two or more firearms if the recipient knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that such receipt would be in violation of any Federal, State, or local law (e.g. if the recipient is a prohibited owner).


  • Provide false information on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives firearms transaction record form.


  • Knowingly facilitate the above actions.


The bill establishes harsh penalties, including a maximum prison penalty of 20 years for the above infractions. The penalty is further increased by five years for the organizer(s) of the trafficking ring, and conspirators face a maximum penalty of 20 years. The legislation also calls upon the Sentencing Commission to substantially increase the penalties for trafficking when committed by, or in concert with, members of gangs, cartels, organized crime rings or other criminal enterprises.


The following groups have endorsed the Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act of 2015: Everytown for Gun Safety, Third Way, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence united with the Million Mom March, Americans for Responsible Solutions, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and Harlem Mothers Save.