Policy

After Texas Shooting, Bipartisan Bill Aims to Close Gun ‘Loophole’

Flake: Since 2007 only a single instance military reporting domestic violence charge

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bipartisan Senate duo introduced legislation Tuesday that would ban individuals convicted of domestic violence from legally buying a gun.

The bill, from Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., would apply to convictions from both military and civilian courts. It would aim to correct what the lawmakers say is a loophole that allows those convicted of domestic violence by a military court to still purchase firearms. Such individuals, by law, are currently barred from buying guns.

“Since the military has no defined charge under the uniform code of military justice for domestic violence, convictions in military courts have gone unreported,” Flake said, adding since 2007 there has only been a single instance of the military reporting a domestic violence charge.

The legislation is in response to a Sunday mass shooting at a church in Texas. In the aftermath, it was discovered the Air Force failed to report the shooter’s prior domestic-violence conviction to the federal military database, allowing him to obtain a weapon.

“This is exactly the kind of individual who should have never passed a background check,” Heinrich said. “There’d be a whole lot of folks who would still be around, potentially.”

The bill would be just a first step that already has bipartisan agreement, the senators said.

“We are going to be looking at a number of other issues, and we will take those one at a time,” Heinrich said.

“We are fixing the problem here and it’s something that ... we can actually get done,” Flake said.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Tuesday he also plans to introduce a bill to help ensure federal agencies input conviction records to the national database.

“This gunman should not have been allowed to purchase firearms and should have been arrested when he tried to do so. We need to better understand why our existing laws didn’t work in this instance and that’s what my proposal, my proposed legislation, will do,” the Texas Republican said on the Senate floor.

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