Texas' Republican leaders expected to shoot down red flag provisions in federal firearms bill

Even though more than 75% of Texas voters favor red flag laws designed to keep firearms away from dangerous people, the Texas GOP is unlikely to do anything to upset the gun lobby.

click to enlarge Their master's voice: Gov. Greg Abbott listens intently as NRA chief Wayne LaPierre speaks during a 2021 ceremony where the governor signed seven bills easing firearms regulations. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Their master's voice: Gov. Greg Abbott listens intently as NRA chief Wayne LaPierre speaks during a 2021 ceremony where the governor signed seven bills easing firearms regulations.
Even in the wake of the Uvalde school massacre, don't expect Texas' Republican leaders to adopt the key "red flag" provision in the bipartisan gun reform legislation now moving through Congress.

That measure — the most significant federal gun control proposal in decades — includes $750 million to incentivize states to adopt red flag laws, which enable judges to take firearms from people proven to be a danger to themselves or others.

Red flag provisions are popular with voters nationwide, and a poll released this week by GS Strategy Group shows that more than 75% of Texas' likely voters support them. Even so, as reported by the Texas Tribune, state leaders are unlikely to opt into such a program and will probably forgo access to the state funding.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott endured a backlash from the right flank of his party after asking the Texas Legislature to consider passing a red flag law four years ago, the Tribune reports. What's more, Abbott has so far waved off post-Uvalde demands to establish a special legislative session to address mass shootings.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Republican who controls the agenda of the Texas Senate and has repeatedly proven his ability to block legislation he doesn't like, remains an opponent of red flag laws, according to the Tribune.

“After the Santa Fe shooting, we had the same move to do this and we did not support it,” Patrick said in a radio interview. “I did not support [that], the Senate did not support that.”

Neither Abbott nor House Speaker Dade Phelan, also a Republican, returned the Tribune's calls for comment. However, it appears unlikely either either is willing to risk angering the powerful gun lobby.

As expected, the National Rifle Association has blasted the federal legislation, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who oversaw bipartisan negotiations on it, was booed when he appeared over the weekend at the Texas GOP convention in Houston.

Abbott, Patrick and Phelan also championed a slate of bills during the past session that gutted firearms restrictions, even appearing with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre during the bills' signing ceremony in San Antonio. One of those was the widely opposed measure that lets Texans open carry handguns without a permit.

In addition to pushing states to adopt red flag laws, the new federal legislation would strengthen background checks for people under 21, clarify who must register as a firearms dealer and closes a loophole in existing U.S. law that prevents people with domestic violence convictions from buying guns.

The U.S. Senate voted 64-34 on Tuesday to advance the package.

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