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The Center Square

Bills would prohibit some Texans with mental health issues from being able to legally purchase a gun

By By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor,


(The Center Square) – Three state legislators have filed bills that would prohibit some Texans with mental health issues from being able to legally purchase a gun. The bills also would expand who’s added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and to Texas Department of Public Safety, which would block them from being able to legally purchase a firearm.

Identical bills were filed by state senators Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, (SB 1184), and Joan Huffman, R-Houston, (SB 728), and by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Allen, (HB 2780).

The bills “relate to the reporting of mental health and intellectual disability information with respect to certain children for purposes of a federal firearm background check.”

The bills would amend state government code to define those prohibited from legally purchasing a firearm as individuals who are at least 16 years old who’ve been (1) ordered by a court to receive inpatient mental health services under Chapter 574, Health and Safety Code; (2) acquitted in a criminal case by reason of insanity or lack of mental responsibility, regardless of whether the person is ordered by a court to receive inpatient treatment or residential care under Chapter 46C, Code of Criminal Procedure; (3) diagnosed with an intellectual disability and committed by a court for long-term placement in a residential care facility under Chapter 593, Health and Safety Code; (4) determined to be incompetent unable to stand trial under Chapter 46B, Code of Criminal Procedure; and (5) a child who’s been found unfit to proceed under Subchapter C, Chapter 55, Family Code, as a result of mental illness or an intellectual disability, among other factors.

They also would require these individuals to be reported to NICS and Texas DPS. The bills would amend state Family Code regarding inspection, copying, and maintaining records about children.

The bills were filed in response to and after a teenage high school drop out with mental health issues reportedly lied on his application to purchase guns that he used to kill 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last May.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, also filed bills to address truancy and how schools report mental health issues also in response to problems identified after the Uvalde shooting.

Gun store owners, pawn shop dealers, and retailers use NICS to determine if a customer can legally purchase or own a firearm. Operated by the FBI, the NICS was created to comply with 1993 Brady Act, which established a national name check system for federal firearms licensees. Since launching in 1998, over 300 million checks have been conducted, the FBI says, resulting in over 1.5 million denials.

Texas Gun Rights argues the bills are unconstitutional and won’t prevent crime.

“These bills will do nothing to keep Texans safe from crime but will funnel more people into a federal database barring the ownership of firearms,” Chris McNutt, president of Texas Gun Rights, said in a statement. “Expanding the NICS database in this way will only serve to strip law-abiding citizens of their constitutional rights based on indiscretions from their youth. No longer can you make a mistake or suffer a mental health crisis, serve your time, seek help, and be integrated back into society. These legislators want to take your guns away permanently.”

McNutt argues NICS “is a broken system that needs to be abolished, not expanded.” He points out that over 94% of NICS denials for firearms purchases are false positives, meaning those who were denied access to purchasing firearms were “wrongly denied.”

“Funneling millions more names into this already flawed system is only a recipe for disaster,” he said. They require “all future records of mental troubles … to be entered into the NICS database ensuring those citizens a lifetime ban on their Second Amendment rights.”

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