Texas Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety among many gun-related announcements made this week

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Texas — On Wednesday, Speaker of the Texas House, Dennis Bonnen, announced that he appointed 13 members of the Texas House of Representatives to serve on a newly formed Select Committee. According to Speaker Bonnen, this committee will focus on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety. The announcement of this committee comes shortly after a string of mass shootings in Midland, Odessa, and El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

State Representative Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), appointed Chair of the committee said, “The tragic shootings we’ve too often witnessed across our state, and most recently in El Paso and West Texas, require lawmakers to step up and be courageous in formulating real policy solutions to prevent future violence.”

“Drew Darby is an excellent choice to chair the House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott. “We visited at length about the purpose and goals for the committee. Representative Darby is committed to achieving meaningful reforms that will make Texas safer while also preserving the 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding citizens.”

Governor Greg Abbott is now being pressured by House Democrats to call a special session on gun reform.

Brooks Landgraf, an Odessa, Texas native, was also appointed by Speaker Bonnon to the committee. Landgraf represents Texas District 81 which includes Andrews, Ector, Ward, and Winkler counties.

As state representative, I will continue to work with the appropriate state officials to support everyone in West Texas who needs it. I’m thankful to Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, Speaker Bonnen and Texas DPS for their rapid response,” Landgraf said in a statement on his Facebook page.

“My family and I share the pain felt by the victims and their families. We will be here to mourn the neighbors we lost and we are here to help the survivors recover. West Texas law enforcement officers were exceptional on this dark day and I’m grateful for their heroism and sacrifice for the safety of our community. We will be praying with—and for—all whose lives have been impacted. Odessa has always been strong and enduring, and that’s more true today than ever.

The list of board members includes:

•          Drew Darby (Chair)

•          Poncho Nevárez (Vice-Chair) (D-Eagle Pass)

•          César Blanco (D-El Paso)

•          Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake)

•          Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth)

•          Barbara Gervins-Hawkins (D-San Antonio)

•          Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton)

•          Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa)

•          Mike Lang (R-Granbury)

•          Joe Moody (D-El Paso)

•          Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria)

•          Four Price (R-Amarillo)

•          Armando Walle (D-Houston)

A press release from Rep. Drew Darby’s office elaborated on the committee’s purpose and plan of action.

“The House Select Committee has jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the safety of Texas communities by reducing incidents of mass violence, and is directed to:

  • Examine options for strengthening enforcement measures for current laws that prevent the transfer of firearms to felons and other persons prohibited by current law from possessing firearms;
  • Examine impediments and challenges to the timely reporting of relevant criminal history information and other threat indicators to state and federal databases;
  • Examine the role of digital media and technology in threat detection, assessment, reporting, and prevention, including the collaboration between digital media and law enforcement;
  • Consider the ongoing and long-term workforce needs of the state related to cybersecurity, mental health, law enforcement, and related professionals; and
  • Evaluate current protocols and extreme risk indicators used to identify potential threats and consider options for improving the dissemination of information between federal, state, and local entities and timely and appropriate intervention of mental health professionals.

The House Select Committee will submit a preliminary assessment to the Speaker within 90 days, produce periodic progress updates, and submit a final report. To maximize the opportunity for public input, the House Select Committee will make every effort to coordinate hearing dates with the Senate Select Committee.”

The announcement from Speaker Bonnen also came a day after Walmart declared they would be taking handgun ammunition off their shelves.

Their statement, written as a memo by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, read in part, “We are respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores or Sam’s Clubs in states where “open carry” is permitted.” It went on to say, “As it relates to concealed carry by customers with permits, there is no change to our policy or approach.”

Walmart’s statement included their request for customers to refrain from open carry did not include law enforcement officers.

Courtesy: Walmart

According to analytics for the chain store that has over 4,000 U.S. locations, discontinuing handgun ammunition sales will “reduce its market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of about 6% to 9%.” They included that over half of their U.S. locations did sell firearms.

The change in inventory reportedly came after pressures from advocacy groups, politicians, and recent shooting events. In August, a man opened fire in a Walmart store shooting 48 people which resulted in 22 deaths. Walmart’s statement said that days before, two of their employees were killed by another employee at their Southaven, Mississippi store location. On Labor Day weekend of 2019, a mass shooting in Midland and Odessa, Texas resulting in at least seven fatalities added to the pressure for changes.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) released this statement in response to Walmart’s decision to discontinue selling handgun ammunition.

“The strongest defense of freedom has always been our free-market economy. It is shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites. Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms. The truth is Walmart’s actions today will not make us any safer. Rather than place the blame on the criminal, Walmart has chosen to victimize law-abiding Americans. Our leaders must be willing to approach the problems of crime, violence and mental health with sincerity and honesty.”

In their statement, Walmart mentioned past actions they’ve taken regarding the sale of some firearms. “We’ve previously made decisions to stop selling handguns or military-style rifles such as the AR-15, to raise the age limit to purchase a firearm or ammunition to 21, to require a ‘green light’ on a background check while federal law only requires the absence of a ‘red light,’ to videotape the point of sale for firearms and to only allow certain trained associates to sell firearms.”

In Texas, when it comes to purchasing any firearm, federal and state law says that a person must be 18-years-old to purchase a long gun and 21-years-old to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. However, in Texas, an 18-year-old can purchase a handgun from a private dealer, meaning another Texas resident.

When it comes to purchasing any firearm regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, there is a strict process and waiting period.

According to the ATF, “Firearms subject to the 1934 Act included rifles having barrels less than 16 inches in length, certain firearms described as ‘any other weapons,’ machineguns, short barreled shotguns, and silencers.”

Texas NFA Gun Trust Attorney Jim Willi says he aids his clients in the process if they want to purchase or, after they have purchased any ATF regulated firearms.  A customer must first go to a federally licensed dealer.

“The ATF has this procedure called ATF Form 4,” Willi said.

The dealer must fill out the ATF Form 4 Application including the make, model, and serial number of the item being purchased. The customer must pay a tax of $200. This process must happen for each item that’s being purchased or transferred.

“Then there’s fingerprints and photographs of the buyer in the application and the application gets mailed off to the ATF. So then, after about 10 to 12 months go by, the ATF runs a complete FBI background check on the buyer. And assuming that is approved by the FBI, then the ATF approves the application and they mail the approval document, that everyone refers to as a tax stamp, back to the dealer. When the dealer gets that document that’s his permission slip to make the transfer,” Willi said.

According to Willi, there are further regulations after the purchase is made. If a person purchases a firearm regulated by the NFA, they are the only person who legally has access to and ownership of that firearm. He gave this example; he purchased two silencers in his own name. He had to keep them locked up and his wife could not have any access to them or be in possession of them. If she were to gain access or be in possession of them, she would be committing a felony.

Willi said this prompted him to investigate what’s commonly called “gun trusts.”

“There’s two ways you can buy an NFA firearm. You can buy it as an individual or you can buy it as an entity, like an LLC, trust, corporation, partnership, business entity,” Willi said.

Willi said a gun trust is basically a specialized version of an estate trust. Whoever is named as a trustee can also have access and be in possession of the regulated firearm. Each trustee must undergo the exact same process as the buyer: ATF Form 4 Application, tax, FBI background check, 10 to 12 month waiting period.

Willi believes the overall process of purchasing an NFA regulated firearm may be somewhat antiquated but is still effective.

“They’re being scrutinized by the FBI before they’re allowed to own something like that, so to me if the FBI is clearing them and approving the transfer, I don’t have a problem with that,” Willi said.

You can find more information about Willi and his practice here.

On September 1, new laws relating to firearms went into effect.

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