Texas Politics

NRA criticizes Patrick’s call to extend background checks to stranger-to-stranger sales

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The National Rife Association criticized Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday for his support to close a loophole in background checks on private gun sales.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Patrick, a Republican and staunch gun-rights advocate, said he’s “willing to take an arrow” and defy the NRA to extend background checks to stranger-to-stranger gun sales, many of which do not go through a federal database.

“That gap of stranger to stranger we have to close, in my view,” Patrick told the paper. “Look, I’m a solid NRA guy, but not expanding the background check to eliminate the stranger to stranger sale makes no sense to me and ... most folks.”

Under federal law, private gun sales do not require the purchaser to undergo a background check, and Texas has no state law requiring it.

ABC News reported that the suspected gunman in the Midland and Odessa shooting previously failed a background check, but was able to buy the gun he used in the rampage through a private sale.

The NRA quickly responded in a statement, likening Patrick’s proposal to attempts made during the Obama administration.

“Like most political gambits, Lt. Gov. Patrick’s ‘solution’ precedes his possession of the facts,” the NRA’s statement read. “Criminalizing private firearm transfers would require a massive, governmental gun registration scheme.”

Others were skeptical of Patrick’s words without being backed up by action. Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro told Patrick on Twitter to “prove it.”

Patrick has raised issues with stranger-to-stranger sales previously, telling Fox News that “they don’t know who they’re selling to,” while stressing he still wanted gun sales between family and friends to be protected.

Following two mass shootings within one month in Texas, gun rights groups have pushed back against enacting stricter gun control laws, while over 60 Democratic state lawmakers have urged for a special session on gun violence.

In an email to members Thursday night, the Texas State Rifle Association urged its members to contact state leaders and lawmakers and “tell them you oppose any new gun control,” specifically citing universal background checks.

And in an email to supporters Friday, Rachel Malone, the Texas director of Gun Owners of America, urged Texans to contact Gov. Greg Abbott about eight executive orders he issued Thursday that primarily focus on improving law enforcement’s ability to report and monitor suspicious activity.

Sranger-to-stranger sales were an issue Abbott said was discussed in a meeting of the Texas Safety Commission in Austin last month. The commission was formed in the wake of the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso that killed 22 people in an attack targeting Hispanics.

“Right now, there is nothing in law that would prevent one stranger from selling a gun to a terrorist,” Abbott said at the time. “And obviously, that’s a danger that needs to be looked into.”

Following Saturday’s shooting in Midland and Odessa the Wall Street Journal reported that law enforcement officials identified a man they suspect illegally manufactured and sold the rifle used in the shooting.

Abbott shared the article on Twitter stressing a point he has made repeatedly after both shootings: “We want to keep guns out of hands of criminals who break the law,” Abbott wrote, “without infringing on the rights of law-abiding Texans.”

Earlier this week Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced the members of House and Senate committees that will be tasked with recommending legislative solutions to prevent future mass shootings, including looking at stranger-to-stranger sales and “ways to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who would not pass a federal background check.”

The Senate committee will also “research the link between violent video games and recent mass shootings in Texas” — a concern Patrick raised after the mass shooting in El Paso.

Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, who drew criticism earlier this week for his comments on undocumented immigrants and guns, quickly spoke out against the measure on Twitter.

“Surveillance of Texan-to-Texan private firearms transfers is a failed idea. It doesn’t work in Chicago, and it won’t make us safer here,” Schaefer wrote. “It will infringe our rights to self-defense.”

In a February 2019 poll, the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin found that of the Texans surveyed, 49% felt gun control laws should be more strict, 30% felt they should be left as they are now and 17% thought they should be made less strict.

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Tessa Weinberg is a state government reporter for the Star-Telegram, covering all things policy and politics. She previously covered the Missouri legislature where her reporting prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. A California native and graduate of the University of Missouri, she’s made her way across the U.S. and landed in Texas in May 2019.