‘Someone in the Republican Party has to take the lead on this,’ Patrick said, of requiring checks when strangers sell to strangers.
By Robert T. Garrett
Sep 6, 2019
Updated at 2:40 p.m. with a statement from the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action.
AUSTIN — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he’s “willing to take an arrow” and defy the National Rifle Association by pressing Texas to close one loophole in gun-purchaser background checks.
On Friday, Patrick said it’s “common sense” to tighten background-check laws because in many instances, stranger-to-stranger sales now are exempt from the requirement that buyers be vetted through a federal database of people not eligible to purchase firearms.
Patrick wants to protect transfers among family members from triggering a check. He’d also continue to exempt friends, though he acknowledged that could be abused. Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, said he’s willing to accede to the preferences of senators on whether to maintain that loophole — and if so, exactly how.
But he said Texas must strongly discourage selling guns to strangers without a background check.
“That gap of stranger to stranger we have to close, in my view,” Patrick, a staunchly conservative Republican and avid gun-rights advocate, said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News.
“When I talk to gun owners, NRA members and voters, people don’t understand why we allow strangers to sell guns to total strangers when they have no idea if the person they’re selling the gun to could be a felon, could be someone who’s getting a gun to go commit a crime or could be a potential mass shooter or someone who has serious mental issues.”
“Look, I’m a solid NRA guy,” he said, “but not expanding the background check to eliminate the stranger to stranger sale makes no sense to me and … most folks.”
The NRA responded soon after, calling Patrick’s proposals “political gambits” that would “resurrect the same broken, Bloomberg-funded failures that were attempted under the Obama administration.”
“Criminalizing private firearm transfers would require a massive, governmental gun registration scheme. Instead of trampling the freedom of law-abiding Americans, the government should focus upon actual solutions: fixing our broken mental health system, prosecuting known criminals and enforcing the existing gun laws that require follow-up whenever a prohibited person tries to buy a firearm,” the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, its lobbying arm, said in a statement.
Since mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, Patrick has talked of wanting to require background checks of private purchasers who are strangers. In multiple interviews with Fox News and in-state conservative talk radio hosts, he has said they account for as much of 10% of all gun sales — and are the likeliest method for criminals to obtain guns.
On Friday, he issued an emphatic warning to fellow Republicans: To survive and avert Democratic takeovers in Austin and Washington, they must act expeditiously on measures to reduce gun violence.
“Someone in the Republican Party has to take the lead on this,” he said.