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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, now, somehow, hanging out on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's right.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, now, somehow, hanging out on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's right.
Gage Skidmore

Texas Gov. Abbott Moves to Lt. Gov. Patrick’s Right on Gun Control

A week ago, Texas, and the rest of the country, got their first look at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's evolving priorities on guns, gun violence and domestic terrorism through a series of executive orders issued by the governor. While there was a decent amount of meat in Abbott's eight decrees — about procedures for handling tips about potential mass shootings, especially — perhaps the most intriguing thing in his Sept. 5 announcement was his assertion that the state Legislature needed to take action as well.

"We must act with resolve in response to the despicable acts of violence we have witnessed in Texas," Abbott said, announcing his proposed legislative priorities. "Solving the problems that have led to these horrific events will take more than governmental action. The complete solution will require more than what is outlined in this paper. It will require parents, families, churches, law enforcement, community groups, schools and others working together to fortify the social fabric of our society.

"Texans are at our best when we are tested. Together, we will transcend this test, and forge an even better future for our state."

Thursday, we got a peek at Abbott's legislative priorities for "firearm safety," including quicker sharing of criminal convictions between agencies, potentially banning juvenile criminal offenders from owning guns as adults and the Legislature working with social media companies toward better threat reporting.

Here's the full list, straight from the governor's office:

  • The Legislature should consider expediting the reporting of criminal convictions to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
  • The Legislature should consider prohibiting straw purchases of firearms under state law. A primary goal is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
  • The Legislature should consider laws that crack down on criminals who try to illegally buy or possess guns.
  • The Legislature should consider requiring courts to inform convicted criminals, both orally and in writing, that they may no longer possess firearms.
  • The Legislature should consider stiffer consequences for criminals convicted of violent offenses.
  • The Legislature could consider requiring that any stolen firearms be reported to the county sheriff within 10 days of when the owner becomes aware of the theft.
  • The Legislature should consider ways to make it easy, affordable and beneficial for a private seller of firearms to voluntarily use background checks when selling firearms to strangers.
  • The Legislature should consider prohibiting juvenile offenders convicted of certain violent crimes from legally purchasing firearms.
  • The Legislature should spur cooperation to encourage social media companies to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
  • The Legislature should consider implementing and funding a Texas program, similar to federal initiatives, which uses a multi-pronged strategy of policing and prosecution, agency integration and identification of violent crime hot spots. The focus would be on criminals with guns, not law-abiding Texans.
  • The Legislature should consider a law that works in conjunction with the proposed federal “Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act” of 2019.

The seventh item on the list is the most interesting. Abbott calls for good guys with guns who happen to be selling those guns to have access to easy, voluntary background checks. Notably, the governor, taking a similar position to one taken Thursday by Sen. Ted Cruz, does not join Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in calling for universal background checks for all gun sales, including private transactions. Last week, Patrick said he was "willing to take an arrow" from the NRA and other gun-rights proponents for background checks.

"Look, I'm a solid NRA guy," he told The Dallas Morning News' Robert Garrett, "but not expanding the background check to eliminate the stranger-to-stranger sale makes no sense to me and ... most folks." 

Texas Gun Sense, one of the state's leading gun-control advocacy organizations, said it was "stunned by the Governor's failure to address systemic problems in the gun violence prevention arena."

"The Governor failed Texans in refusing to call for universal background checks, including closing the loopholes of private sales," the group said in a statement. "His call for encouraging private sellers to perform background checks is simplistic at best, because private sellers can opt now to get background checks performed and too many do not."

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