This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are convening a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas House of Representatives Investigative Committee report suggests the Uvalde County sheriff would have been notified prior to the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde if the 18-year-old gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers had purchased pistols instead of rifles.

“Here, the Information about the attacker’s gun purchases remained in federal hands,” the report said.

The shooter purchased two AR-15-style rifles within two days, which was properly reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, according to the report.

Federal law requires Federal Firearms Licensees, or FFLs, to file a separate report any time two or more firearms are purchased by the same person within five business days, under The Gun Control Act of 1968.

When multiple sales within that timeframe occur, FFLs must submit ATF Forms 3310.4, which relates solely to pistols and revolvers, and/or form 3310.12 when multiple rifles are purchased.

“The report must be filed with ATF no later than the close of business on the day the multiple sale or other disposition took place,” according to ATF. “These reports provide ATF with potential intelligence and almost real-time investigative leads that can indicate illegal firearms trafficking.”

While multiple sales of any type of firearm are required to be reported to the ATF, KXAN learned Chief Local Law Enforcement Officials, or CLEO, are only notified if certain firearms are purchased.

“The law only requires purchases of handguns to be reported to the local sheriff,” the report said.

According to this law, Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco would have been notified nearly a week before the Robb Elementary School shooting occurred if the shooter had purchased pistols.

KXAN spoke to Lindsay Nichols, the Federal Policy Director at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, who explained the law was implemented solely for pistols in the 1980s when handgun violence was more prevalent and before assault-style rifles were more widely used.

It was not until the last decade, and a trend of trafficking firearms, that multiple rifle purchases were required to be reported to ATF, Nichols said.

KXAN reached out to the ATF and asked for further clarification as to why the law only requires FFLs to report multiple pistol purchases to CLEOs but not rifles.

At this time, ATF was not able to provide a definitive explanation as to why it is not currently required to report multiple purchases of both pistols and rifles to CLEOs. KXAN will update this story with any additional information it receives from ATF.

Additionally, KXAN reached out to Sheriff Nolasco and asked whether immediate red flags would have been raised if he had been notified about the two AR-15-style rifles purchased by the 18-year-old based on his knowledge or familiarity with the teen.

Sheriff deputies responded to a domestic disturbance between the shooter and his mother in 2022 just months before the rifles were purchased, according to the report.

KXAN is currently waiting for a response from Sheriff Nolasco and will update this story when we receive it.

Proposed federal legislation

U.S. Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., has been fighting for years to update and change the current federal law related to the reporting requirements on multiple firearm purchases.

On May 27, three days after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Torres introduced H.R.7904 titled the “Multiple Firearm Sales Reporting Modernization Act of 2022.”

The proposed bill would amend and expand the current law to require all firearms, not solely pistols, to be reported to both ATF and CLEOs.

This is the third time Torres has introduced this bill to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Torres’ Multiple Firearm Sales Reporting Modernization Act of 2017 and 2019 both died shortly after being introduced once they were referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Had either of these bills passed, the Uvalde County Sheriff would have been notified about the two AR-15-style rifles purchased by the Uvalde shooter nearly a week before the shooting occurred.

Torres told KXAN she and Congressman Bradley Schneider re-introduced this legislation after the tragic shooting in Uvalde “as a stark reminder of the work we still need to do to protect American lives.

According to Torres, their goal is to close a “loophole” in multiple firearms sales.

KXAN asked Torres if she felt the Uvalde shooting could have been prevented if federal law required multiple purchases of both pistols and rifles to be reported to the CLEO.

“Yes, we can protect our communities more when we have additional oversight of multiple firearm purchases, including at the federal level. There needs to be better coordination between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and local law enforcement to ensure that suspicious actions are taken seriously,” Torres said.

“Simply put, more transparency can help law enforcement do their job, and track down troubling leads,” Torres continued.