Gov. Greg Abbott calls for strengthening gun background checks


AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he supports strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as a step to addressing gun violence. NICS is a federal database controlled by the FBI and used to determine if a prospective buyer is able to buy firearms.

“It’s clear that the NICS system was flawed in the aftermath of Sutherland Springs,” he said. “It was flawed in the aftermath of what happened in Florida.”

Abbott spoke with reporters shortly after he cast his ballot on the first day of early voting in the state. He didn’t back any specific proposal in Congress that would make changes to NICS, but said, “some of these proposals should be strongly considered and meaningfully passed.”

On Monday, President Donald Trump showed support for a limited strengthening of federal background checks on gun purchases. The White House said he spoke with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, about a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen NICS on Friday.The U.S. Air Force admitted it failed to let federal law enforcement agencies know about a felony domestic violence conviction for Devin Kelley, the man believed to have shot and killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in November 2017.

‘Not all mental health issues are going to lead to someone using a gun to harm others.’

Abbott also says government agencies at all levels should have the ability to enter data into the NICS system and be held responsible if they don’t and that individual states also need to take action to start addressing school safety measures.

“I have already asked my office to get involved to immediately evaluate the safety of our schools and see what, if anything more, can be done,” he said. “And I have a history in this that when I was attorney general, we worked closely with the Texas School Safety Center. It’s essential immediately that we work with the Texas School Safety Center, review what the standards are, and see the extent to which they should be updated.”

Mental health and how it relates to gun violence should also be addressed, Abbott said, citing both the Sutherland Springs and Florida shootings as strong examples.

“Not all mental health issues are going to lead to someone using a gun to harm others,” he said. “We need to find a way to identify and distinguish mental health issues that would cause a gun crime and those that would not cause a gun crime. We need to be able to empower local law enforcement to be able to respond to red flags. There were red flags that were raised before the shooting in Sutherland Springs, before the shooting in Florida – yet those weren’t responded to.”

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