Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Bipartisan proposal stiffens penalties on illegal gun sales Rep. Meehan is co-sponsor, represents part of county
BY JEREMY W. PETERS, New York Times
WASHINGTON -- Members of both parties in the House outlined a plan on Tuesday to stiffen penalties on the illegal purchase and transportation of guns, a rare show of agreement on an issue where bipartisanship has been scarce.
Two Democrats and two Republicans in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Patrick Meehan, who represents eastern Lancaster County, have introduced legislation that would create a dedicated federal anti-gun-trafficking law while further cracking down on people who buy firearms for someone else and lie about it on federal background check forms.
As the law is written now, "the penalties are so weak it's like a slap on the hand," said one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y.
In another sign of greater bipartisan open-mindedness on gun control, the House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., signaled support Tuesday for a stronger background check system.
"For those who have deep concerns about the overreach of the federal government, I'm in that group," Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, a Republican sponsor of the measure, said as he tried to assuage concerns of those in Congress and across the country who are worried about a federal push to limit the right to bear arms.
The debate over gun-control legislation has never broken down cleanly along partisan lines. And this pattern is especially evident now as a number of Senate Democrats from states like Alaska, Colorado, Montana and West Virginia face tough questions from constituents back home.
But the unveiling of the House legislation Tuesday showed the flip side of that dynamic. There are many House Republicans who represent affluent suburban areas where voters view gun control in less absolute terms and are generally more open to stricter laws.
This includes Rigell, who represents an area around Virginia Beach, and Meehan, whose district includes the north and west suburbs of Philadelphia. Meehan represents the 7th Congressional District, which now includes Christiana Borough and Bart, Colerain, Leacock, Paradise, Sadsbury and Salisbury townships.
Meehan, who was on hand for the announcement Tuesday, said he planned to begin reaching out to other Republicans soon.