“There is no honor in buckling to the will of the NRA. This is a change that law enforcement has been asking for and will make it easier to go after gun-trafficking rings.”
—Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) upon introducing the “Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act”
“Criminals get their hands on tens of thousands of guns every year through illegal trafficking. States with weak gun laws often serve as suppliers of guns to states with stronger gun laws. Law enforcement is constrained by insufficient laws to crack down on gun trafficking.”
—Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety
Those statements are total fiction. They are lies that deny the existence of very real and explicit federal statutes providing tough penalties for all imaginable aspects of illegal firearms trafficking. That denial of truth—especially by politicians and law-enforcement officials who know better—reflects a long-existing malfeasance contributing to rising violent crime rates in America’s cities.
In 1997 and as recently as 2015, I addressed the false claims that laws against gun trafficking were “minimal” in this very column. Today, it is worth revisiting because the truth is as powerful now as it was then.
If existing criminal sanctions under long-standing federal law were enforced, here is what would happen to a typical interstate trafficker, whom I will call “Maloney’s gun trafficker.” This habitual criminal is a felon with multiple convictions, a drug user and a fugitive from justice. His “customers” are likewise convicted felons in the illegal drug trade, two are fugitives, and all are from out of state.
Maloney’s gun trafficker takes orders for firearms from his customers—five specific handgun models, one each for his separate criminal buyers. Maloney’s gun trafficker drives to another state, enters the shop of a federally licensed dealer and settles on the five handguns he wants. He fills out the obligatory 4473 and falsely answers a list of questions, swearing under penalty of law that he is the lawful purchaser and that he is not prohibited from gun possession. With his fake ID, he is cleared by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
On the way back to New York, Maloney’s gun trafficker stops off to visit a fellow criminal who fences stolen guns and buys a flashy, engraved 1911—with the serial number obliterated—for himself. Maloney’s gun trafficker then returns to New York City and transfers his five handguns to his drug-dealer “customers,” knowing the guns will be used in crimes of violence involving the drug trade.
So, let’s look at what the gun-ban crowd describes as “weak federal laws,” and how they apply. They are found in the U.S. Code, Title 18, under a chapter titled “Firearms.” I’ll total the penalties under what the gun-ban crowd calls “weak” federal laws.
For starters, it’s a federal felony for a resident of one state to acquire a firearm in another state, except under stringent dealer requirements. Private interstate sales between individuals trading in any firearm is illegal (Sec. 922(a)(3)). The penalty: five years in prison on each count.
Since Maloney’s gun trafficker sells his five guns to five different individuals, each transaction is counted, so his five guns apply in every violation. Here it adds up to 25 years in prison.
It is a federal felony for “any person” to “transfer, sell, trade, give, transport or deliver any firearm to any person” who the person knows, or has reason to know, does not reside in the same state (Sec. 922(a)(5)). The penalty: five years in prison on each count. Five guns: 25 years in prison.
If an out-of-state resident buys from a dealer and makes a false statement in purchasing a firearm, or provides false identification, those acts are federal felonies, five years on each count (Sec. 922(a)(6)). Falsely filling in the Form 4473 is a crime punishable by 10 years in prison per count. Since Maloney’s gun trafficker used fraudulent identification and lied, and swore falsely on his 4473s, three separate crimes occurred under this section. Five guns: 150 years in prison.
It is a federal felony for a convicted felon to buy, receive, transport or possess any firearm or ammunition. Under Sec. 922(g)(1), each action mentioned—purchase, receipt, transporting or possession—is a 10-year federal felony. If applied just to the five guns, that’s 50 years in prison. Receiving the guns from the dealer amounts to 50 years in prison. Transporting the guns to New York City is a 50-year prison sentence. These crimes call for 150 years in prison.
The exact same penalties apply for the same acts committed by a fugitive from justice (Sec. 922(g)(2)). Since Maloney’s gun trafficker is a fugitive, that’s another 150 years in prison. The same penalties apply to known drug users (Sec. 922(g)(3)). So Maloney’s gun trafficker is subject to another 150 years in prison.
Since he has more than three felony convictions, he’s subject to penalties in Sec. 924(e)(1), which provide for a mandatory 15-year sentence on each count. Here alone, Maloney’s gun trafficker should get 75 years with no hope of getting back on the street.
In completing transactions with his “buyers” in New York City, he commits another host of federal crimes. If a violator of the Gun Control Act can be shown as intending to commit a state or federal felony involving the firearm, he has committed an additional federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison on each count (Sec. 924(b)). Five guns: 50 years in prison.
Under Sec. 924(h), “Whoever knowingly transfers a firearm, knowing that such firearm will be used to commit a crime of violence ... or drug trafficking crime ... shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years.” Maloney’s gun trafficker knows his “customers” are violent drug dealers or drug users. Five guns: 50 years in prison.
It is a federal felony for any individual to sell or give a firearm or ammunition to a convicted felon (Sec. 922(d)(1)). The penalty: 10 years in prison on each count. Five guns: 50 years in prison.
It is a federal felony for any individual to sell, or give a firearm or ammunition to a fugitive from justice (Sec. 922(d)(2)). The penalty: 10 years in prison on each count. Two of his customers are fugitives: 20 years in prison.
It is a federal felony for any individual to sell, or give a firearm or ammunition to a person unlawfully using or addicted to a controlled substance (Sec. 922(d)(3)). The penalty: 10 years in prison on each count. All of his customers are drug users: 50 years in prison.
If any violator of the Gun Control Act provisions can be shown as intending to commit a state or federal felony involving a firearm, that individual has committed an additional federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison on each count (Sec. 924(b)). So, here again, Maloney’s gun trafficker is subject to multiple counts of 10-year federal felonies with his five guns, which will be used in numerous crimes by his customers, including mere possession by them as prohibited persons, and mere possession is an illegal act under New York law. This total would be, at the very least, another 50 years in prison.
In addition, 18 U.S.C. § 922(i) criminalizes transport and possession of a stolen firearm and calls for a 10-year prison term for each offense.
And then there’s the little matter of the scraped-off serial number. 18 U.S.C. § 922(k) covers possession, receipt, shipment, or interstate transport of a firearm with an altered or obliterated serial number. Conviction brings five years in prison.
Add it all up, and Maloney’s gun trafficker should be facing a grand total of 1,020 years in prison.
It is an undeniable truth that our criminal-justice system already has more than enough laws on the books to put criminal gun traffickers away for a very long time. Likewise, it is an absolute lie when gun-banners like Maloney, President Biden, Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi say that current gun laws are “weak” or nonexistent.
So why don’t gun-ban politicians ever demand that tough existing laws be enforced? Because their goal is not safety. Their track record clearly shows that they have no interest in protecting anyone, save for the criminals. Their only goal is to malign NRA members and law-abiding gun owners en route to destroying the Second Amendment.