By CHRIS AGEE
Lawmakers in Washington are set to consider a proposal next week to expand background checks prior to gun purchases as the nation continues to discuss how to curtail gun-related violent crime.
U.S. Senators voted Thursday to reject a planned filibuster on the issue and they will next vote on the most extensive gun control bill in almost two decades.
Both Texas senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, voted against proceeding.
"We need to make sure that what we do is address the cause of this violence," Cornyn said on the Senate floor prior to his vote, "and to come up not with symbolic gestures that will have no impact, or to pass other laws that will not be enforced, but to come together with real solutions."
Locally, individuals on all sides of the gun control issue are actively engaging in the debate.
Gene Long, a lifelong gun owner, said he does not feel the proposed legislation infringes on his right to bear arms.
"I've got to be honest, I'm a 'gun nut,' but I don't see what's wrong with that," he said. "I think it's going to hurt the gun shows, obviously."
Still a gun enthusiast, Long said he is not concerned with passing a background check.
"The only reason somebody wouldn't want background checks is they have an ulterior motive for getting the gun," he surmised. "I love guns and I'm 69 years old. I've had guns all my life. I don't hunt anymore, but I love to shoot."
Should a proposal to impose background checks before firearms are left as an inheritance be considered, Long said he would oppose it.
"If you're going to give your son or grandson a gun, I don't want that interrupted," he explained.
Provided checks are performed at the retail level, as is the case currently, Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan said, "I think it's a good idea."
Should the background checks be expanded to "a more thorough investigation at the municipal, county or state level," he said local departments could face further strain on already depleted budgets.
"If they put the onus on local law enforcement to complete the background check, that's another unfunded mandate," he noted.
County seeks to attract gun manufacturers
With the passage of Texas Senate Bill 1467, the Governor's Office now has authority to provide financial incentives to gun manufacturers in other states interested in relocating to the Lone Star State.
Steve Butcher of the local Industrial Foundation said such incentives serve to make Texas even more attractive to such industries, which he said have been treated poorly by lawmakers in other states.
"These states are just so far off base I can't believe it," he said, explaining he has sent recruitment packages "to Magpul as well as nine different gun manufacturers in Connecticut."
In addition to low taxes and other aspects attractive to industries relocating from other states, Butcher said Mineral Wells is uniquely suited for the generally smaller operations associated with gun manufacturing.
"They're good industries," he said, staffed with "reasonably high paid, skilled individuals. We're not talking any kind of minimum wage here, and they tend to be smaller manufacturers."
Butcher said this community cannot compete effectively for larger companies because of an advantage held by many other counties across the state.
"Half the counties in the state – and that does not include Palo Pinto – has the half-cent economic development tax," he explained. "They can lay cash on the table."
Targeting the right potential businesses is important, Butcher said, adding the Mineral Wells area can be attractive to "the ones that are between 50 and 100 employees."
Still early in the process, Butcher said gun manufacturers are likely inundated with similar packages from other communities, though he feels confident "the smaller companies we definitely have a shot at."