Texas Senator part of bipartisan deal to strengthen gun background checks

US Politics

FILE – In this Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

WASHINGTON (KXAN/NBC) — A Texas Republican Senator is joining forces with a Connecticut Democrat to pass a bipartisan bill to strengthen background checks on firearms. The change is small but would end an unintended loophole that has led to mass shootings.

Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, have been quietly negotiating this bill, NBC News reported Wednesday, but the senators believe they could be on the verge of a compromise deal.

Democrats in the U.S. House passed a bill that would require background checks on almost all gun purchases, but that bill then stalled in the Senate.

This new bill from Cornyn and Murphy would clarify who exactly must register as a Federal Firearms Licensee and conduct FBI checks on people buying a gun. The current law’s ambiguity has allowed unlicensed sellers to “transfer weapons to dangerous people who skirt the background system,” NBC reports.

Police believe that loophole was responsible for the 2019 mass shootings in Midland and Odessa.

Efe Obayagbona Midland-Odessa shooting survivor
Efe Obayagbona (left) pictured with the sheriff’s deputy (right) who came to his rescue and transported him to the hospital on August 31, 2019. Obayagbona was seriously injured during a mass shooting along I-20 when he was driving a truck for his work at the time. Photo Courtesy Obayagbona’s family.

“We need to clear that up,” Cornyn said. “That by definition will make more people get background checks because all Federal Firearms Licensees have to do background checks.

“What we’re trying to protect, or carve out, are the hobbyist and or casual transactions between friends and family members, but capture the people who literally are making a living and making a profit selling firearms, and give that to the U.S. attorneys to prosecute.”

Murphy has been one of the leading voices for gun control legislation on Capitol Hill ever since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in his state in 2012 killed 27 people, including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old.

Murphy says his partnership with Cornyn could encourage more support from reluctant Republicans to fix this loophole.

“It’s an opportunity for agreement,” Murphy said. “There is interest about reclassifying — about clarifying who is a dealer who isn’t. It’s very difficult to enforce, because the statute is ridiculously vague right now.”

NBC News says negotiations have been slow and quiet, but the two senators appear on the verge of a deal.

“Coming up with the exact language is a little bit of a challenge because you’re always going to find somebody who’s trying to parse those words,” Cornyn said. “But I think we can.”

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