Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
March 8, 2013
Contact: Jeremy Warren, 512-463-0113

Ellis Files Legislation to Require Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases

SB 1526, SB 1527/HB 3347 require universal background checks, close the gun show loophole

(Austin, Texas)—Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today filed two gun safety bills to ensure criminals do not have easy access to gun purchases. Currently, Texas allows private weapon sales at gun shows with no background checks.

Ellis filed SB 1526, which will require universal background checks for every gun sold in the state; Ellis and State Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) filed SB 1527/HB 3347, which will close the gun show loophole, which allows private weapon sales at gun shows with no background checks.

"Requiring background checks for all gun purchases is a no brainer," said Ellis. "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 some of the most deadly weapons on the planet."

"HB 3347 is a common sense approach to beginning to curb gun violence," said Rodriguez. "Technology now allows us to close the 'Gun Show Loophole' without encroaching on anyone's right of gun ownership. If it decreases the number of guns on the street at all, it will because we prevented a gun from getting into the wrong hands. I expect broad based support for this proposal."

Under federal law, anyone who wishes to be "engaged in the business" of selling guns is required to register and obtain a Federal Firearm License (FFL). These sellers are required to conduct instant criminal background checks on all gun buyers and are barred from selling guns to convicted felons, domestic abusers, and juveniles. There over 65,500 federal firearms license holders across the United States, including 6,205 in Texas.

However, not everyone who is truly "engaged in the business" of selling guns sells guns holds an FFL. Each year tens of thousands of guns change hands at thousands of guns shows nationwide with no background check required. These unlicensed sellers are people who are allowed to sell guns but do not (or claim not to) earn their livelihood from firearm sales. Unlicensed sellers may sell guns at gun shows, out of their homes, or even over the Internet. In general, 25percent to 50percent of sellers are not licensed dealers. Unlike gun stores, both federally licensed dealers and unlicensed sellers can sell guns. There are well over 100 gun shows in Texas scheduled for 2013.

According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 40 percent of guns are sold without a background check, be it at a gun show, via a private sale or over the Internet, and that number may be too low. Loopholes make it easier for criminals to get their hands on a gun, and make it more difficult for law enforcement to trace illegal firearms. These weapons typically have left the possession of a licensed dealer -- who must keep records of sales -- and into the hands of an unlicensed seller, who is not required to keep such records.

In 2009, 2,691 people died from firearm-related injuries in Texas. According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, in 2007, 2008, and 2009, Texas exported the fourth largest number of guns used in crimes, and consistently supplies the greatest number of crime guns to Mexico. In 2009, 40percent of the Mexican crime guns that were traced to the U.S. were originally sold in Texas.

"Closing the gun show loophole or requiring universal background checks will have almost no impact on legitimate gun dealers and those who can legitimately purchase a gun," said Ellis. "Several states have closed the loophole and gun shows continue to thrive there."