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Two Years In, Heinrich Highlights Success of Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

The Department of Justice has used Heinrich provisions on gun trafficking and straw purchases to charge more than 500 defendants, removing hundreds of firearms from the streets

WASHINGTON – Two years after President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) into law, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the core bipartisan group of senators who negotiated and passed the bill, is highlighting the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention’s new report, which outlines the implementation and impact of the law. 

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) was the first significant federal gun safety legislation to become law in 30 years. During the bill negotiations, Heinrich specifically worked with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to increase criminal penalties for straw purchases and stop illegal gun trafficking out of our country.    

“Our Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was the most meaningful gun reform in three decades, and it’s working,” said Heinrich. “I’m proud that the provisions I wrote to make trafficking firearms across our border illegal and increase the penalties for straw purchases have already led to hundreds of arrests and kept firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals. There is still much more we need to do to reduce gun violence, but I’m proud that this law has proven effective at helping law enforcement fight crime and make our communities safer.” 

Heinrich-led Gun Trafficking and Straw Purchase Provisions:

Heinrich-led provisions in the Safer Communities Act increased criminal penalties for straw purchasers and made it a crime, for the first time ever, to traffic firearms out of the United States. Straw purchasers are people who buy guns for those who cannot buy them directly themselves due to their age, felony criminal convictions, or other limitations. By increasing penalties for straw purchasing, Heinrich’s provision is helping to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who would use them against our communities. By making it illegal to traffic firearms out of the country, Heinrich’s provision gave law enforcement the tools needed to prosecute and disrupt the flow of firearms to Mexico and the Northern Triangle, fueling the violence that has driven so many to flee their home countries.   

To date, the Department of Justice has charged more than 500 defendants using BSCA’s gun trafficking and straw purchasing laws, removing hundreds of firearms off the streets in the process. These cases are significant, often preventing and prosecuting highly dangerous activity, such as crimes linked to organized trafficking rings and transnational criminal organizations.  

For example, in March 2024, the Justice Department charged several defendants with trafficking and straw purchasing over 100 firearms, including many military-grade weapons, that were allegedly to be smuggled to a Mexican drug cartel. In April, a defendant was sentenced to 276 months in prison for firearms trafficking and straw purchasing, as well as distribution of fentanyl, where the evidence showed that two of the trafficked firearms had been used in gang-related shootings. Late last year, a defendant was sentenced to two years in prison for running an illegal gun trafficking enterprise, repeatedly taking money to lie on firearm purchase forms and obtain weapons for convicted felons. 

Additional Highlights from the White House Report:

Additional highlights from the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention’s new report include: 

  • The Department of Justice has made 30 awards for community violence intervention programs, totaling $94 million. 
  • The FBI’s new enhanced background checks have stopped 800 sales of firearms to individuals under 21 who are prohibited from purchasing firearms. 
  • The Biden-Harris Administration has awarded New Mexico more than $4 million for the hiring and training of mental health professionals to work in schools through BSCA funding. 
  • New Mexico has received more than $7.5 million in BSCA funding to update safety plans, hire mental health professionals and school resource officers, carry out community violence interventions, install security equipment, and take other steps to improve school safety. 
  • The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $1.9 million to New Mexico to help schools identify students who need mental health care and help them access that care through the Project AWARE program. 

Heinrich's longtime leadership to tackle gun violence:    

A gun owner and father, Senator Heinrich has long worked to advance and pass bipartisan policies that save lives, protect public safety, and reduce gun violence. 

Last week, Heinrich brought his Banning Unlawful Machinegun Parts (BUMP) Act, bipartisan legislation to ban bump stocks, to the Senate floor through a unanimous consent (UC) request. The effort directly follows a recent Supreme Court ruling to overturn a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, devices designed to indiscriminately kill the highest number of people in the shortest amount of time. U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), objected to Heinrich’s UC request, blocking passage of the legislation. Since the Supreme Court ruling, over 20 senators have signed onto Heinrich’s BUMP Act, bringing support up to over a quarter of the Senate.   

Heinrich, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and former Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) initially introduced the BUMP Act in the 115th Congress, following the October 1, 2017, mass shooting in which a bump stock was used to fire more than 1,000 bullets into a crowd in just 10 minutes, killing 60 people. U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) also cosponsored that legislation. 

Last November, Heinrich introduced the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act, legislation to protect communities from gun violence, while safeguarding Americans’ constitutional right to own a firearm for legitimate self-defense, hunting, and sporting purposes. In addition to regulating the sale, transfer, and manufacture of gas-operated semi-automatic weapons, the GOSAFE Act would prevent unlawful modifications of permissible firearms, including bump stocks. Earlier this month, Heinrich announced that his GOSAFE Act has been introduced in the House by U.S. Representative Lucy McBath (D-Ga.).   

Last month, Heinrich announced over $1 million he secured in the FY24 Appropriations Bills to purchase new National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) ballistics testing machines for law enforcement agencies in Las Cruces, Farmington, Gallup, and Roswell. The intelligence gathered by these machines will go to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center where dedicated and trained analysts will use the information to trace and network firearms used in crimes across the state. The Center will then be able to feed that information back to law enforcement agencies to improve identification of suspects and support successful prosecutions.     

In March, in the FY24 Appropriations Bills, Heinrich also secured language directing the expanded use of NIBIN for state and local agencies in the Southwest Border region.     

In July 2023, Heinrich cosponsored the bicameral Ghost Guns and Untraceable Firearms Act, led by Blumenthal, to require online and other sellers of gun-making kits to comply with federal firearm safety regulations.     

In 2017, Heinrich cosponsored the bipartisan Fix NICS Act, which now requires federal and state authorities to produce background check implementation plans and holds federal agencies accountable for reporting relevant criminal records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). He also led the successful call to repeal the Dickey Amendment, which had previously prevented the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from funding research on gun violence and its effects on public health.