With the new legislative session starting up in Austin, Texas comes a wave of new bills. Some are expected relaxations of the restrictions on Texans’ constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, but not all are so gun friendly. One new proposal aims to specifically “close the gun show loophole” by requiring background checks, but only for sales at gun shows.
The bill, HB259 filed by Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), makes it a Class A misdemeanor for one person to transfer a firearm to another person without a background check unless the person is a peace officer or has a concealed carry license. It’s an obvious and direct attempt to “close the gun show loophole” as the Democrats have been demanding nationally for years, but the way the bill is constructed shows that the author has absolutely no idea about the existing gun laws and how gun shows work and instead is just trying to get some headlines and win political points.
Here in Texas, it is 100% legal for one individual to sell a firearm to another individual without a background check as long as they reasonably believe that the buyer is not prohibited from possessing a firearm. No background checks are required and no transfer records are required to be maintained. I’ve personally used this legality to sell firearms to individuals in all sorts of places, from HEB parking lots to my own couch. The one place I’ve never actually sold a firearm is a proper gun show. It’s true that private collectors can set up shop at a gun show and sell their firearms without a background check, but requiring background checks at this one location is like trying to bail out a sinking Titanic using a teacup. It doesn’t address the perceived problem and simply shifts the activity to a different and less tightly monitored location.
Another issue is when a private individual wants to sell a gun to a gun dealer. I’ve seen plenty of cases where a person will be walking around a gun show with their existing firearm and will trade it to a dealer for a good price on a newer upgraded version. The way the law is written, that individual would have to perform a background check on the gun dealer before the sale can go through. That seems like a pretty idiotic and backwards situation.
Finally there’s the cost. The law would require that the gun show organizer provide a person who can perform these background checks for unlicensed individuals. That’s a more competently written law than the one in Nevada, but it doesn’t set a price for the background check service. Theoretically an organizer can make that rate so prohibitively expensive that private sellers are driven out of the gun show and unable to conduct business.
In short, the law is too narrow to actually make a difference and has unintended side effects which would hurt lawful commerce in Texas. That sounds like the definition of a terrible bill to me.