We recommend legislation that mandates the establishment of active shooter building codes, and that Independent School Districts update their existing infrastructure in a manner that mitigates the threat of school shootings. School construction in many locations does not adequately address the very real threat of an active shooter on campus. Lack of door locks that do not require a key, glass walls around classroom and offices, lack of security cameras in key locations and lack of fully functional PA systems are indicators that regulation is needed.
All new school buildings should as a minimum standard have:
No current legislation has been filed on this matter.
The background check loophole, aka “gun show loophole,” refers to the scenario that, barring any additional requirements, prohibited purchasers (including violent offenders) are able to avoid background checks at gun shows by purchasing guns from unlicensed sellers and private individuals. “Private individuals” is a loose term under the Firearm Owners Protection Act that includes any private seller who does not rely on gun sales as the primary means of income.
Pursuant to the Brady Act, if a vendor is a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL), they are required to perform a background check prior to completing the sale of the firearm.
However, unlicensed sellers (vendors and private individuals) are also permitted to sell firearms at gun shows. As an unlicensed seller, that individual or vendor is not required to keep records of sales, and is not required to perform background checks. Thus, an individual who would be prohibited from purchasing a gun under federal law, such as a felon or domestic abuser, is be able to purchase a gun through an individual or unlicensed vendor.
It is estimated that 25-50% of gun show sales are from unlicensed or private individual sellers. The guns used in the Columbine High School, 101 California Street, and 2010 Pentagon shooting were all purchased at gun shows through this loophole.
Presently, a private seller can rent table space and carry a “private sale,” or other sign that indicates to purchasers that no paperwork, background check, or recordkeeping are required. Sometimes, individual sellers will simply walk around the grounds with a card, allowing others to approach them, and simply perform a transaction without even the exchange of names.
Despite overwhelming public support for universal background checks, Texas does not currently require background checks for firearms sold or traded at gun shows by private individuals or unlicensed vendors.
The Commission recommends state legislative action to close this loophole, requiring universal background checks for any and all firearm sales and/or transactions in the state.
House Bill 195 by Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) restricts the private transfer of firearms at gun shows by requiring every transaction to be conducted through a licensed dealer.
3D Printed Guns are firearms that can be made anywhere in the world with very inexpensive materials and a 3D printer. In its simplest form, the 3D printed gun can only fire one round of ammunition without reloading.
With a more expensive printer, an individual can manufacture multiple AR-15 rifles capable of firing high-capacity magazines of .223 ammunition. The designer of these 3D printed firearms is Cody Wilson, who says his dissemination of information on how to build the gun is “protected free speech,” and therefore cannot be regulated. This matter is still in litigation; however, the blueprints are already on the Internet and accessible with some searching.
3D printed guns and rifles pose an exceptional threat to the safety of our community because they allow for the acquisition of virtually untraceable firearms, which can be manufactured by persons who would not qualify for gun ownership. This “ghost market” of gun manufacturing circumvents gun purchasing laws and regulations.
The solution is to make 3D printed pistols and rifles illegal to possess the same way that any other homemade gun, also known as a “zip gun,” is unlawful to possess in the State of Texas under the Prohibited Weapons statute of the Texas Penal Code, Section 46.05. Under this proposal, possession of a 3D printed gun would be a felony of the 3rd degree.
House Bill 38 by Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) makes it illegal for an individual to manufacture and possess a firearm without obtaining an individualized serial number from, and registering the gun with, the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Law enforcement and concerned family members need tools to temporarily suspend firearms access during periods of crisis. Evidence shows that while mental illness, on its own, is not a strong predictor of behavior toward others, there are circumstances when mental illness makes an individual more prone to violence.
For example, one such circumstance is the first episode of psychosis and the time periods just before and after an involuntary hospitalization.
Mental illness is strongly associated with self-harm, and common mental illnesses such as depression can increase risk of suicide.
Risk of suicide and access to firearms is particularly dangerous; 90% of attempted suicides by firearm are fatal.
Another factor likely affecting both firearm homicide and suicide is access to firearms by persons at risk for harming themselves or others. Previous studies have shown that the interval between deciding to act and attempting suicide can be as brief as 10 minutes or less, and that persons tend not to substitute a different method when a highly lethal method is unavailable or difficult to access.
Preventing persons convicted of or under a restraining order for domestic violence from possessing a firearm has been associated with reductions in intimate partner-related homicide, including firearm homicide. A history of violence, including violent misdemeanor convictions and perpetration of domestic violence, is the strongest predictor of violence towards others. Individuals who abuse alcohol are at increased risk of homicide and suicide, and research shows that firearm owners are more likely to abuse alcohol. Studies also show that illegal use of controlled substances is related to an increased risk of violence. The cognitive impairment associated with drug use also makes it difficult to avoid violent conflict.
Appropriate Crisis Intervention safeguards in the form of Red Flag Laws and Protective Orders are essential to reduce gun violence. These are complicated and controversial issues. We believe that the City of Houston needs to play a leadership role in ensuring that measures are enacted during the next legislative session, and that these measures address, as well as possible, the many issues that have been raised in our research.