A bipartisan group of senators introduced a new proposal Monday  to stiffen federal penalties for people who illegally purchase firearms for someone else, signaling continued eagerness between Democrats and Republicans to find agreement on legislation to limit gun violence.


Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) announced details of the new bill Monday afternoon on the Senate floor, saying that the proposal will help law enforcement officials prosecute gun crimes.

The bill would make the practice of gun trafficking a federal crime for the first time, with penalties of up to 20 years for "straw purchasers," or people who buy a firearm for someone legally barred from doing so — a group including felons and illegal immigrants. The bill also would punish the person who illegally sells weapons to a straw purchaser.

“The practice of straw purchasing is used for one thing — to put firearms into the hands of those that are prohibited by law from having them," Leahy said. "Many are then used to further violent crimes.”