In the wake of Sunday’s shootings in Sutherland Springs, Texas that killed 26 people, Texas Sen. John Cornyn introduced legislation this week aimed at ensuring that felony convictions data is uploaded to federal databases used to perform background checks on would-be gun purchasers.
Cornyn, who typically takes a conservative line on gun regulation measures, has received pushback from Second Amendment hard-liners. Cornyn spoke to Texas Standard Host David Brown about what he hopes to accomplish with his legislation.
On what allowed the Sutherland Springs shooting happen:
We found that this did not have to happen. The background check system failed us. That’s a system that’s designed to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers and people with mental illness. And because of the failure of the Air Force in this case, to upload this information into the FBI background check system, we weren’t able to stop this shooter from purchasing these weapons legally, which he was not eligible to do.
On new his background check bill differs from existing law:
I think we’re going to have to look for a mix of sticks and carrots: first to compel the federal agencies to comply with the law, which they did not do in this instance…There’s some inconsistencies with regards to how the military justice convictions are reported. And we may have to change some of the wording to make sure they’re included in what Congress intended in terms of the disqualifying features in the background check. And then, for the states, Congress can’t constitutionally force the states to upload this information, but can provide some additional grants, and try to facilitate the states doing so.
On whether it’s challenging to propose gun-related laws that some conservatives object to:
This is an area where there is consensus in the country. It’s true that there are some people that take vastly different views on gun rights. I’m a gun owner myself, a hunter, and someone who believes strongly in the right of law-abiding citizens to own and use firearms for recreation, hunting and [to] defend their families. But we do have an area of consensus when it comes to people with mental illness, convicted felons and people guilty of domestic violence. Those are disqualifying under current law, and we need to make sure that things like this never happen again because people slip through the cracks like this shooter.
On the possibility of regulating bump stocks, in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting:
I’m very troubled by what we saw in Las Vegas, because it is illegal to convert a semi-automatic firearm to an automatic firearm. And essentially that’s what the bump stock does. So I’ve asked Chairman [Charles] Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing, which we will do next week to examine the bump stock, and also to ask the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms why they decline to regulate those under current law. It may mean that we need to give them additional authority to do so.
On the Senate version of the Republican tax cut plan:
The goals are…[to] simplify the tax code, to cut taxes for all working families and to make our system more competitive.