Texas Republicans vow to oppose all new federal gun guidelines. Specialists say it is largely a symbolic gesture.

Texas Republican leaders are advocating a bill that would make Texas a Second Amendment Sanctuary State, prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from enforcing certain federal gun rules promoted by Democrats in Washington, DC. Credit: Callie Ricmond for The Texas Tribune

Federal government calls for action after recent mass shootings put Governor Greg Abbott and GOP state lawmakers on the defensive. Now they are laying the groundwork to block federal gun regulations through laws that would make Texas a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State,” which prohibits state agencies and local governments from enforcing new federal gun regulations.

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However, legal experts say the move is largely symbolic and that its practical effect would be to make it more difficult – but not impossible – for federal officials to enforce new gun control measures.

The drive to steal Texas against federal regulations comes amid multiple gun violence cases across the country – including a gunfight in Bryan on April 8 and another in Austin on Sunday. The longstanding gun control debate in Washington, DC has reignited, moving Democrats in Congress and the White House to call for a ban on assault weapons and stricter background controls, among other things.

“We need to put a full barrier in place against any government official who doesn’t crack down on gun rights in Texas,” Abbott said during his annual speech to the state in February.

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If passed, Texas, along with Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Wyoming, and Arizona – along with more than 400 local governments in at least 20 states – would declare gun rights sanctuaries.

“This is what I am looking for in Texas – a law that contradicts new federal gun control laws,” Abbott said in an April 7 tweet of Arizona’s recently-approved new law. “I’m looking forward to signing it.”

What would be the impact of the law if Congress passed stricter gun laws, like those passed by President Joe Biden last week?

The Sanctuary Act wouldn’t allow Texas to repeal or override federal gun laws, said Sanford Levinson, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. Instead, “what to say [to federal officials] is: “If you want to enforce it, do it yourself.” Levinson said.

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“The practical effect is really marginal, if anything,” added Darrell Miller, co-director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law. “That doesn’t mean the Department of Justice can’t enforce federal firearms laws in the state of Texas. This only makes their job more difficult because they cannot rely on state or local government officials to help them. “

When asked if the governor agrees with this legal understanding, Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said in a statement: “State or local government resources will never be used to violate the rights of law-abiding Texans after the second amendment.”

Justin Holland’s House Bill 2622, which approved his first committee on April 6 by an 11-2 vote, prohibited state governments and local governments from enforcing or assisting federal agencies with certain non-existent federal gun regulations to be granted according to state law, such as B. Registration, licensing, and background checking requirements and programs that would confiscate weapons or require individuals for sale.

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Under the new federal regulations that Texas would enforce, background checks are mandatory for private gun sales. Following the 2019 mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick concerns about state laws that allow private sales between strangers without background verification.

Abbott paused before Patrick pushed for mandatory background checks, but suggested that lawmakers “should consider ways to make it easy, affordable, and affordable for a private gun seller to voluntarily perform background checks when selling firearms to strangers”.

The Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act has yet to be reviewed by the entire House and has yet to be passed in the Senate. A text tabled in the upper chamber has not yet received a hearing from the committee.

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Holland, R-Rockwall, admitted that the federal government has its own enforcement mechanisms, even as he and other GOP officials in Texas are promoting “essentially freezing” state gun laws.

“We cannot control what the federal government is doing,” said Holland in an interview. “We’re just trying to say that we won’t stand up for anything that restricts or undermines our rights.”

Texas law would likely stand up in court, Levinson said, referring to a 1992 US Supreme Court ruling that the federal government cannot “order” state officials to enforce federal law. States that have gone further than Texas and attempted to repeal federal gun laws have faced legal challenges.

“It’s a game of political chicken, but I don’t think there’s serious doubt that Texas can say, ‘You have to do this yourself,” Levinson said, adding, “It’s already true in many places,” That state and local officials do not cooperate with federal law.

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The House passed another major gun law last week. The 1927 House Bill would not meet the requirement for Texas residents to be licensed to carry handguns unless state or federal law prohibits them from possessing a weapon. Texans must generally have the right to carry handguns openly or concealed under applicable law. That approval in the lower chamber showed that there was a bipartisan appeal for a cause that conservative activists have long advocated. HB 1927 is now going to the Senate.

Biden and Congress Democrats are increasingly demanding new federal measures following recent mass shootings across the country. Last week, just hours before Bryan police said someone opened fire in Kent Moore’s cabinets, killing one person and injuring at least five others, Biden announced a series of executive measures to prevent gun violence.

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“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and an international embarrassment,” Biden said on April 8th [a] Nation.”

Biden called for new restrictions on “ghost rifles,” which are home built and harder to track, and armrests for pistols. He also directed the Department of Justice to create a template that states can use to pass red flag laws that generally allow judges to temporarily remove weapons from those deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Such laws previously met with fierce opposition in Texas law.

Notable in Holland’s proposal is the threat of denying state funding to state agencies in Texas enforcing certain new federal restrictions, Miller said.

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“Not only does this mean that state police cannot help the government enforce federal gun laws, but it also means that the Austin City Police Department cannot,” Miller said.

Holland said “there must be teeth in the bill” to ensure uniform enforcement across the state.

“We cannot have separate cities, counties and jurisdictions that revolve around state laws as a kind of political statement,” said Holland. Dozens of counties in Texas have declared gun rights sanctuaries.

Lawmakers said it was possible that Texas could lose some federal funding if the legislation is passed.

“Although state funding has no significant tax implications as a result of the bill, the impact on federal funding cannot be determined at this time as the federal authorities’ response to this legislation is unknown,” the bill’s financial note reads.

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