A resolution calling for “legislation requiring universal background checks” was reportedly requested for consideration by the Harris County Commissioner’s Court, but was not included in the final agenda for the October 29 meeting.
The resolution, requested by Commissioner Adrian Garcia (D-Precinct 2), would have indicated the county’s support for expanding background checks for “all gun sales in the State of Texas, including those that do not involve a licensed gun dealer, as well as stranger-to-stranger gun sales.”
Garcia had requested the item be added to the agenda in a letter dated October 14.
Sources within the county administration believe that although not taken up at the October 29 meeting, the resolution will be officially introduced later, possibly for consideration in November.
The resolution proposed by Garcia listed statistics of firearm-related deaths as a reason to expand background checks.
It also contended that “private gun purchases between strangers account for as much as ten percent of total gun sales and are the most likely method for criminals to obtain guns.”
Data shows that most weapons used by criminals are obtained through theft, gifts from family or friends, or purchased through an underground market that is already operating illegally and is unlikely to follow any new background check regulations.
In addition to its other arguments, Garcia’s resolution also explicitly cited Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who previously called for a “discussion” over expanded background checks.
The lieutenant governor has been at the forefront of pushing background checks on so-called “stranger-to-stranger” private sales in the wake of the El Paso and Odessa mass killings earlier this year.
Patrick’s calls were met with intense opposition from conservatives, talk radio hosts, and even the state GOP, which unanimously approved a letter opposing the expanded regulation.
Although Garcia’s resolution was not included in the agenda for the October 29 public meeting, County Judge Lina Hidalgo (D) did introduce other gun-related agenda items.
Hidalgo stated that the federal government “is paralyzed by inaction,” and “the state government…is not only not taking action, they’re actively prohibiting us from taking action. They have passed laws that explicitly say counties and cities can’t regulate how guns are purchased or stored, or pretty much anything you can think of.”
Commissioners unanimously approved the expansion of the “Safe Surrender” program which allows those charged with domestic violence or under protective orders in domestic violence cases to turn over firearms to the Sheriff’s office for temporary storage instead of selling or giving away the weapons.
County Clerk Marilyn Burgess also announced that the county had reduced to five days the time it takes to report criminal convictions to the Criminal Justice Information System, which provides data for currently required background checks.
Earlier this year, Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order requiring counties to develop processes for reporting within five days by 2021.
Additionally, the county is distributing free gun locks through Constable Alan Rosen’s office, and has instructed the county health department to establish a Stop Violence Task Force to research gun violence and possible solutions.
Last week, on news of a possible universal background check resolution, Gun Owners of America announced their opposition and encouraged residents to attend the meeting to speak out against it.
Several citizens who were concerned about the so-called “universal background checks” signed up to speak at the meeting, and a few were able to speak on Tuesday.
Republican candidate for Texas House District 148, Luis LaRotta, testified against expanded background checks, and defended possession of firearms for alleged victims of domestic violence.
“The best defense a woman has in an abusive relationship is an equalizer, and that is a firearm,” said LaRotta.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.