Over the past 16 months, the Justice Department has aggressively invoked a new law targeting gun traffickers to charge more than 250 people. Through, the department has prosecuted 207 defendants. Eighty were charged with violating the law’s provision against straw purchasers — people who buy guns on behalf of other people who typically are not legally allowed to own a weapon because of their criminal history or other reasons, reports the Washington Post. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022 has led to the seizure of over 1,300 guns, including 190 AR-style rifles that are frequently a weapon of choice in mass shooting attacks, according to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Lawmakers began working on the legislation after the mass killing at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., which killed 21 people, most of them small children.
Gillibrand said she was “very gratified to see the law being implemented effectively across the country.” She said the figures were evidence that Democrats fighting crime effectively by focusing on gun violence, even as Republicans charge that Democrats have let crime rise. In Iowa this summer, the new federal law was used to charge four alleged members and associates of a street gang called Only My Brothers, or OMB. The federal and local investigation led to the seizure of 73 guns. The law created two statues prohibiting firearms trafficking and straw purchasing and allows for stronger prison penalties, in particular for straw purchases. Before the law, straw-purchase cases were often frustrating for law enforcement officials to prosecute. Straw purchasers, almost by definition, are individuals without a criminal record, which means that when they were charged with making a straw purchase, they rarely received any prison time because it was their first offense.