WASHINGTON--The Senate is poised to move the first bill to curb gun violence since the Newtown massacre, named for Chicago shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton, with Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk among the chief sponsors.
The bipartisan measure cracks down on gun-trafficking and straw purchases of firearms to get around background checks -- problems that have contributed to gun-related crimes in Chicago. At present, there is no federal law banning a person fronting a gun purchase to either sell or pass along the weapon to someone else.
"This bipartisan bill will crack down on the illegal trafficking of guns and impose strict punishments for straw purchasers. Buying a gun for another to use in a crime will mean a hard time-federal crime," Durbin, a Democrat, said in a statement.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the bill on Thursday and it is expected to clear the panel and head to the Senate floor in April.
Although Congress is considering several other gun-related measures -- including the more controversial proposals to ban assault weapons and limit the number of bullets in a magazine -- the anti-trafficking/straw purchase crackdown bill will move as a stand-alone piece of legislation.
Other senators who help forge the bipartisan measure are Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
While the bill has a good chance of Senate passage, it's fate in the House is not clear at this stage. The House may not take it up as a stand-alone measure and instead package it with other gun bills -- which would make it harder to create bipartisan support.
Hadiya Pendleton was shot to death in January in a park about a mile from President Barack Obama's Kenwood home.
Kirk, a Republican, said in a statement, "For Hadiya and thousands of other victims, my hope is we can break through the gridlock here in Washington to actually get something done to save lives."