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Jana Birchum
Jana Birchum (by Photo by)

Check That Gun

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. Last week, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, filed a pair of bills to close the "gun show loophole" and to require "universal background checks" for every firearm sold in the state. Firearm retailers are required to obtain a federal firearm license and submit background checks for all buyers, but up to 40% of gun sales are done without background checks, by individual sellers. SB 1526 would require universal background checks for firearm sales. SB 1527 – carried as HB 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. Ellis notes that there is broad support for 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. – J.S., March 9

Repeal Abortion Burden

On March 8, Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, filed legislation (HB 3744) to remove the 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion. Under Texas law, women seeking abortion must visit a doctor for a consultation and undergo a mandatory ultrasound 24 hours prior to actually undergoing the procedure – to listen to a fetal heartbeat and to a doctor's verbal description of fetal development. According to research released this week by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, the waiting period has proven a burden for women and has not changed their minds about going through with the procedure. Those are among the results of a survey of 318 women seeking abortion in six cities across the state, research conducted as part of the TPEP, a three-year project by investigators at the University of Texas, the University of Alabama, and the nonprofit research group Ibis Reproductive Health. The researchers found that 89% of women surveyed felt "extremely confident or confident" in their decision to choose abortion both before and after the forced ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period, while 31% reported that the 24-hour waiting period had a negative impact on their emotional well-being.

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