On Monday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick reiterated his calls for a “discussion” on background checks to cover private, so-called “stranger-to-stranger” transactions through a series of radio appearances.
His defense of proposing the policy comes after pushback from conservatives.
A week before Saturday, the Texas State Republican Executive Committee voted unanimously to approve a resolution condemning expanded background checks (EBCs) of the sort suggested by Patrick.
Last Friday, former state representative Matt Rinaldi wrote an article contending that Patrick — not Beto O’Rourke who has essentially called for outright confiscation — “poses the biggest threat to Texas gun owners.”
Early Monday morning on the Mark Davis Show, Patrick defended his record on gun rights, boasting about his high ratings from the NRA and that he has consistently supported pro-Second Amendment legislation.
Davis did not go easy on Patrick, though, telling him, “Enhanced background checks of the type you embraced are going over like a lead balloon on this show…they believe it is worshipping at another phony altar, and that it’s because we are scared of losing Texas and becoming purple that we feel like we’ve got to give an olive branch to the left.”
After failing to interject, Patrick replied, “Look Mark, that is just flat wrong. It has nothing to do with an olive branch to the left. It has nothing to do with ‘we have to do something’ or otherwise.”
He went on to say that because of the several mass murders in the past few years, no one had been to more memorial services than himself and Gov. Abbott. He argued that Texas needs to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals to prevent future tragedies.
Davis said his callers agreed with that point but were adamant that EBCs are not the best means to achieve that end. Patrick countered that he had “been in contact with scores of gun-owners,” but only one disagreed with his suggestion.
In both Davis’s show and the Chad Hasty Show later that morning, Patrick made similar defenses for his position.
“The left does this all the time. If you’re for marriage between a man and a woman, they call you ‘homophobic.’ If you say you want to secure the border, they say, ‘oh, you’re racist,’” Patrick told Hasty. “No, you can believe in something. I’m not anti-Second Amendment because I just have this view that maybe we need to look at this issue.”
On the Joe Pags Show later that day, Patrick said, “As a Republican, we at least have to talk about these things at the table. We can’t just say ‘thoughts and prayers.’”
In the interview with Pags, Patrick also asserted that since only about 5-7 percent of firearm sales occur in private, “stranger-to-stranger” transactions, most of those buyers are likely trying to avoid a background check.
While the intentions of buyers are impossible to measure, data shows that the majority of criminals do not obtain their weapons through legal, private, stranger-to-stranger transactions.
Nearly all are obtained through an already illegal market, families and friends, theft, or retail purchases.
As noted by Davis, many Republicans view EBCs as an “incursion into private commerce,” which will require the creation of a firearm registry to be properly enforced — something that Patrick says he opposes.
In an article published on Tuesday, Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey stated, “Not only do mandatory EBCs raise more false positives, effectively limiting law-abiding citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, but also they have been proven not to work.”
Dickey noted that researchers found EBCs to be ineffective and that “the lack of enforcement mechanisms resulted in citizens simply not complying.”
The Texan spoke with Ari Freilich of the Giffords Law Center, which advocates for tighter gun control restrictions.
Freilich said that he appreciates the willingness of a leader from such a conservative state to take a step forward on the issue, but also agreed that some kind of enforcement mechanism would need to be put in place to be effective and argued that more steps would need to be taken to reduce firearm deaths.
He said that it could potentially be easy for a seller violating the proposed law to dispute any claims that he was a “stranger” who was not close friends with the gun-buyer.
Although Patrick has faced opposition from the Texas GOP, it should be noted that the lieutenant governor is certainly not the only one in his party advocating for EBCs.
Last week, Attorney General Bill Barr and the White House legislative director floated an idea for federal EBC legislation modeled after the Manchin-Toomey bill that was defeated in 2013.
But after the document they were circulating was leaked, the White House quickly distanced itself from the proposal.
Furthermore, although the Texas GOP condemned EBCs, almost every Republican state senator has been unwilling to do so. The Texan contacted the staff of all 19 members in the caucus, and at the time, none took a clear position in favor or against Patrick’s proposal.
Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) later informed The Texan through a spokesperson that, “I have always and will always oppose expanded background checks.”
Update 9/27: Since publication, State Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) reached out to The Texan to provide his position on Patrick’s proposal. We have updated the paragraph accordingly.
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.