Senators Urge US Sentencing Commission to Not Over-Sentence ‘Straw’ Purchasers but Focus on Gun Dealers 

By Paloma Sifuentes

WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senators Cory Booker from New Jersey and Chris Murphy from Connecticut are urging the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) to follow fair sentencing policies—not over-sentencing low-level “straw purchasers” and instead focusing on dealers—under the Bipartisan Safer Community Act legislation signed by President Biden.

In the letter written to USSC Chair Judge Carlton W. Reeves, Senators Booker and Murphy stated, “As the first meaningful federal gun safety legislation in decades, we believe that it can and will save lives. But to achieve that outcome, it is essential that the implementation of the law avoids the mistakes of the past.”

The commission, they said, has an important role to ensure that they use their time and efforts to collect and analyze data, and carefully research and use inputs from the criminal justice system to establish fair sentencing policies. 

The lawmakers added it is crucial that the commission follow this process to avoid unjust sentencing policies against lower-level offenders. Additionally, the process of the commission has a long-term effect on the individual and the community. 

The Bipartisan Safer Community Act includes provisions that allow the USSC to impose increased penalties for those who are convicted of firearm trafficking and straw purchasers, especially if they are part of a gang or cartel. 

The senators asked the USSC to make sure that they are taking necessary precautions to implement fair sentencing and to avoid harsh punishments against straw purchasers, as opposed to dealers. 

“It should be made clear that the legislative intent of the BSCA is to end the flow of illegal guns into communities and reduce gun violence. The directive’s attention to both sentencing enhancements and mitigating factors reflects this focus, as it seeks to punish suppliers of the large numbers of firearms diverted from lawful commerce, while avoiding unnecessarily long sentences for people with less culpability or without significant criminal histories,” the senators wrote.

The lawmakers added, in their letter, “The directive’s instruction to the Commission to consider sentences for straw purchasers ‘that are sufficient to deter participation in such activities and reflect the defendant’s role and culpability’ should not be interpreted more broadly than intended. 

“It was our intent that the instruction that sentences be ‘sufficient to deter participation’ reflects an intent that the recommended sentences for straw purchasing be enough to achieve this goal but not excessive or unnecessary.” 

About The Author

Paloma Sifuentes is a Senior at California State University, Long Beach majoring in Criminal Justice. She plans on attending law school after she graduates with her bachelors degree in the spring of 2023. She is very passionate about Criminal Law and intends on working as an associates attorney in a law firm after law school.

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