Jun 30, 2022 - News

How the new federal gun law will - and won't - affect Texas

President Biden signs the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law on June 25. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

America's most comprehensive gun legislation in decades became a law last week after a bipartisan push in Congress.

  • But some parts of the legislation may not affect Texas.

Details: The law includes enhanced background checks for gun purchasers under 21, funding for mental health and school safety, incentives for states to implement red flag laws and limits on the "boyfriend loophole," per Axios' Jacob Knutson.

Between the lines: Although Texas leaders seem interested in pursuing mental health and school safety measures, other elements of the law will be less impactful.

  • For example, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have repeatedly said a red flag law will not fly in Texas. Abbott tried to get state legislators to consider them several years ago and was met with strong opposition.
  • And the more comprehensive background checks for young gun purchasers would not apply to gun sales between private citizens, because Texas law doesn’t require checks in those transactions.
  • That would also limit the effect of adding convicted domestic violence abusers and individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Throwback: Texas was once a leader in gun control.

  • "Publicly carrying guns was basically banned from 1871 into the 1990s, with few exceptions," says SMU assistant law professor Eric Ruben, who specializes in the Second Amendment.
  • The gradual loosening of gun laws isn't because of constitutional legal challenges; it's largely because of state lawmakers who have passed legislation like open carry and permit-less carry, Ruben said.

Yes, but: Even Republican leaders in Texas disagree over gun control.

  • Sen. John Cornyn was a key player in negotiations for the new federal legislation, focusing on issues most lawmakers could agree on. Lawmakers stopped short of more comprehensive — and controversial — reform, such as expanding background checks to cover all gun sales and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz voted against the legislation, saying in a statement that it would "disarm law-abiding citizens." Cruz backed a different proposal focused mostly on school safety and mental health.

What we're watching: Texas' next legislative session kicks off in January.

  • Abbott has asked for a special legislative committee in the meantime to look into school safety, mental health and police training so the state can take "meaningful action" to prevent future school shootings.

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