AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety will consider a bill on April 8 requiring background checks on all private gun sales.

House Bill 118, authored by State Representative Lina Ortega of House District 77 in El Paso, would close the loophole that allows people to buy guns in Texas through an unlicensed seller without first undergoing a background check.

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“Gun violence is a critical public safety issue across this state, and in my home district,” Ortega said. El Paso was the site of a racially motivated hate crime in August, 2019, in which almost 50 people were shot in a Walmart store and 22 people were killed. Many of the dead had Latino last names and eight of them were Mexican nationals.

The suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius from Allen is a North Texas native who attended high school in Frisco and Plano. He also went to Collin College from fall 2017 to spring 2019.

The shooting was the 21st mass killing in the United States in 2019, and the fifth public mass shooting.

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Carla Byrne, a survivor of gun violence, is expected to testify at the hearing about how the loophole has impacted her family. Joe Griffith, Carla’s younger brother, died after he was shot in an August, 2019, mass shooting incident in the Midland-Odessa area of West Texas. The shooter purchased the assault rifle used in that incident in a private sale from an unlicensed seller, where no background check was required, after having previously failed a background check processed by a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Under current law, federally licensed firearms dealers must conduct national instant criminal background checks on buyers, but unlicensed sellers face no such requirement. This has created a sanctioned market where those who want to use a gun to commit a crime know they can get one with no questions asked, according to Ortega.

“Background checks are just common sense, but this loophole essentially makes them voluntary,” Ortega said. “I am eager to present this bill to the committee so we can have an honest discussion about how background checks will save lives in this state.”

The National Rifle Association has listed the bill on its Institute for Legislative Action page as one intent on “Banning private firearms transfers between certain family members and friends, requiring FFLs to process these transactions that would include federal paperwork for government approval at an undetermined fee.”

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