Texas Legislature close to passing bill prohibiting straw purchases of firearms

While federal law has prohibited “straw purchases” of firearms, meaning someone buying firearms for someone else who is legally ineligible, Texas state law has been silent on this issue until now.

House Bill (HB) 2454, filed by Rep. Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City) and carried through the Senate by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), creates a state straw purchase law. It received full approval from both chambers of the Texas Legislature on Thursday but will need the House to concur with a minor change before it heads to the governor.

“While it is currently a felony for a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm to knowingly make a material false statement on a form while intending to purchase, sell, or transfer a firearm, there is currently no law that prohibits an individual from acquiring a firearm for a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law,” the bill analysis says.

Under the new law, straw purchases would be punished as a state jail felony offense.

The Senate did make one minor change before approval. The House version only prohibited straw purchases for those prohibited from owning guns under state law; the Senate added that firearms may not be purchased for those prohibited under federal law as well.

Given those differences, the House must either vote to concur with the changes or move to appoint conferees to iron out a final version to submit to both chambers for approval.

Senate Democrats proposed four amendments to the bill, with Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) offering the final amendment to ban the acquisition of semi-automatic rifles by those ages 18 to 20 years of age.

Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) called a point of order on each amendment. Each one was withdrawn except for Gutierrez’s, which was ruled out of order.

Gutierrez objected to the ruling and made a rare motion to appeal the decision of the chair, to which Hughes quickly responded by moving to table the motion to appeal. The Senate voted 27 to 4 in favor of Hughes’ motion.

Before the final passage, Gutierrez gave an impassioned speech calling for the Legislature to do more to prevent mass shootings by passing substantial restrictions on firearms, asking Republican senators to ignore “far-right” constituencies that oppose more restrictive gun laws.

The San Antonio Democrat has been the most vocal proponent of stricter gun laws this session. His district includes Uvalde, where the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School took place last year.

Gutierrez frequently made attempts this session to amend any gun-related legislation with more restrictive and unrelated measures, at one point prompting pushback from Lt Gov. Dan Patrick. Before concluding his speech Thursday, he offered an apology to the chamber for his “behavior” this session on the gun control front, with Patrick responding by saying no apology is needed and acknowledging Gutierrez’s pain from the tragedy.

“Senator, no apology is necessary. I know this has struck you very hard, and we talked about that in my office at the very beginning of the session, and we will give you as much leeway as we can to deal with it,” Patrick responded.

With that, the bill was given unanimous approval by the Senate.

With the passage of major gun rights legislation last session, including constitutional carry, Second Amendment issues have taken up far less legislative oxygen this session.

However, this Legislature has taken up several bills to push back on crimes committed with firearms including Patrick’s priority Senate Bill (SB) 23 which establishes a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone committing a crime with a gun.

SB 23 passed the Senate in April and has been pending in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee since early May.

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