This story is part of a series of KXAN reports titled “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions around gun violence in the aftermath of the fatal Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as lawmakers who meet a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Discover all the “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas House of Representatives Investigative Committee report suggests the Uvalde County sheriff was told before the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde if the 18-year-old shooter who killed 19 students and two teachers had bought pistols instead of rifles.
“Here, information about the attacker’s weapons purchases remained in the hands of the federal government,” the report said.
The shooter purchased two AR-15-style rifles in two days, which was properly reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, according to the report.
Federal law requires holders of federal firearms licenses, or FFLs, to file a separate report each time two or more firearms are purchased by the same person within five business days, under the law of 1968 on gun control.
When multiple sales occur during this period, FFLs must submit ATF Forms 3310.4, which is for pistols and revolvers only, and/or Form 3310.12 when multiple rifles are purchased.
“The report must be filed with the ATF no later than the close of business on the day the multiple sale or other disposition occurred,” according to the ATF. “These reports provide the ATF with potential intelligence and near real-time investigative leads that may indicate illegal firearms trafficking.”
While multiple sales of any type of firearm must be reported to the ATF, KXAN has learned that local law enforcement officials, or CLEOs, are only notified if certain firearms are purchased.
“The law only requires that handgun purchases be reported to the local sheriff,” the report said.
Under that law, Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco would have been notified nearly a week before the Robb Elementary School shooting if the shooter had purchased any guns.
KXAN spoke with Lindsay Nichols, director of federal policy at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, who explained that the law was implemented only for guns in the 1980s, when handgun violence was more prevalent before assault rifles were more widely used.
It’s only been in the last decade, and a trend of gun trafficking, that several gun purchases have had to be reported to the ATF, Nichols said.
KXAN contacted the ATF and requested further clarification as to why the law only requires FFLs to report multiple purchases of pistols to CLEOs, but not rifles.
At this time, the ATF has been unable to provide a definitive explanation as to why it is not currently required to report multiple purchases of pistols and rifles to CLEOs. KXAN will update this story with any additional information it receives from the ATF.
Additionally, KXAN contacted Sheriff Nolasco and asked if any immediate red flags would have been raised had he been made aware of the two AR-15 style rifles the 18-year-old purchased based on his knowledge or his familiarity with the teenager.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to a domestic disruption between the shooter and his mother in 2022 just months before the guns were purchased, the report said.
KXAN is currently awaiting a response from Sheriff Nolasco and will update this story when we receive it.
KXAN has learned that U.S. Representative Norma Torres has been fighting for years to update and change current federal law relating to reporting requirements for multiple firearm purchases.
On May 27, two days after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Torres introduced HR7904 titled “Multiple Gun Sales Reporting Modernization Act of 2022.”
The proposed bill would amend and expand the current law to require all firearms, not just pistols, to be reported to both the ATF and CLEOs.
This is the third time that Torres has introduced this bill in the United States House of Representatives.
Torres’ Multiple Gun Sales Reporting Modernization Acts of 2017 and 2019 both died shortly after being introduced once they were referred to the Crime Subcommittee, the terrorism and homeland security.
Had either of these bills passed, the Uvalde County Sheriff would have been notified of the two AR-15-style rifles purchased by the Uvalde shooter nearly a week before the shooting. .
KXAN reached out to Torres and asked for additional details about his current and former bills, and asked for comment on the circumstances of the gun purchases made by the Uvalde shooter and current federal law.
Torres told KXAN that she and Congressman Bradley Schneider reintroduced this legislation after the tragic Uvalde shooting “as a stark reminder of the work we still have to do to protect American lives.”
According to Torres, their goal is to close a loophole in multiple gun sales.
Finally, KXAN asked Torres if she thought the Uvalde shooting could have been prevented if federal law required multiple purchases of guns and rifles to be reported to CLEO?
In response, Torres said:
“Yes, we can further protect our communities when we have additional oversight of multiple gun purchases, including at the federal level. There needs to be better coordination between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and local law enforcement to ensure suspicious actions are taken seriously.
“Put simply, greater transparency can help law enforcement do their job and pursue troubling leads,” Torres said.