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Bill of the Week: Closing the Gun Show Loophole

Ellis proposes universal background checks
Jordan Smith, 2:05pm, Sat. Mar. 9, 2013

From 2007-2009, Texas ranked fourth in the country in the export of guns used in crime, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns. This in part is likely due to the ease with which guns are purchased in the state – including by straw purchasers at gun shows, where it's easy to load up on weapons without having to undergo a background check.

In an effort to knock Texas out as a top tier supplier of crime guns, Democratic Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis on Friday filed a pair of bills to close the so-called "gun show loophole" and to require "universal background checks" for every firearm sold in the state.

Firearm retailers are required to file for and obtain a federal firearm license; part of being a registered dealer is also the requirement to submit background checks for all buyers. There are more than 6,200 FFLs in Texas, according to Ellis. But up to 40% of gun sales are done without background checks, by individual sellers who avoid obtaining an FFL because they don't consider themselves "engaged in the business" of firearm dealing; up to 50% of sellers are not licensed dealers, according to Ellis. SB 1526 would require universal background checks for firearm sales; SB 1527 – carried as House Bill 3347, by Austin Dem Rep. Eddie Rodriguez – would make it a class A misdemeanor to sell a gun at a gun show without first performing a background check; police officers and individuals licensed to carry concealed weapons would be excepted. The bill would also make it a class A misdemeanor for a gun show promoter to permit the sale of firearms at a show "organized, planned, promoted, or operated by the promoter" without conducting a background check. Again, sales involving police or CCL holders would be excepted from the regulations.

Whether the bills have any chance of passage in gun-loving Texas – a state where competing legislation would ban the feds from interfering in Texas' ability to regulate firearms – is anyone's guess. Still, Ellis notes that there is broad support regulations such as those he is proposing: "Requiring background checks...is a no brainer," he said. "Law enforcement supports it, and poll after poll across Texas and the nation have shown nearly 9 in 10 support background checks of all gun sales to ensure criminals do not have easy access" to weapons.

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