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Gillibrand Backs Bill To Battle Illegal Gun Sales

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced Sunday that she's backing a bill that aims to crack down on corrupt gun dealers and eliminate the flow of illegal guns into New York.

"This legislation makes it crystal clear that these people are criminals and that they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Gillibrand said.

Almost 90 percent of the firearms used in New York City gun crimes come from out of state, and most of those guns are illegal, said Gillibrand, who plans to introduce the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act this week.

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"Congress must make it illegal to traffic weapons from the person who buys the gun from the dealer to the person illegally selling the gun out of the drunk of his car to the kingpin who organizes the entire network," Gillibrand said. "This must be deemed as criminal activity."

It comes on the heels of an undercover probe into gun shows by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Investigators found an open marketplace for illegal weapons, with sellers disregarding mandatory background checks.

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The probe also revealed a loophole in the law that holds the individual gun seller legally accountable but not the gun show operator. The legislation would close the nation's "gun show loophole" and keep operators responsible.

"The Attorney General's critical investigation shows just how easy it is for guns to end up in the hands of dangerous people," Gillibrand said in a statement. "By cracking down on gun dealers who blatantly disobey the law as well as illegal gun traffickers and their vast criminal networks, we can reduce gun violence and keep our families and neighborhoods safe."

The undercover operation led to criminal charges against 10 New York gun dealers.

Schneiderman said the probe "confirmed what too many already know: In America, guns are freely available to all, regardless of criminal history or other prohibitive factors."

Jackie Hilly from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said the country needs tougher gun laws.

"There was a 2-year-old who was shot in his car seat on his way home from Easter Sunday Mass, there was a 15-year-old shot on her way home from school--she was critically injured," Hilly said.

The new bill toughens penalties, making such sales a crime and suspending a dealer's license.

Traffickers could face up to 20 years in prison. Kingpins who organize gun trafficking rings would be subject to an additional sentence of potentially five consecutive years in prison. And penalties could increase depending on the number of guns trafficked.

In addition, individuals engaged in a conspiracy to traffic guns would be punished equally to those who actually traffic a gun.

Corrupt dealers would be subject to a license suspension of up to six months and a fine of up to $2,500 per violation.

What do you think of this new bill? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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