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Sheriff's office was not alerted to Uvalde shooter's firearms purchase. Here's why

Gun stores are required to tell the ATF about multiple rifle purchases in a short amount of time, but not the local sheriff's office.

AUSTIN, Texas — In the Texas House investigative committee report on the Robb Elementary School shooting, the committee notes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was alerted to the shooter's purchase of two assault rifles and points out the sheriff's office was not alerted because local law enforcement is only made aware of certain purchases of handguns.

The report reads: 

"A background check was conducted, and the attacker qualified for the purchases. While multiple gun sales within such a short period are and were reported to the ATF, the law only requires purchases of handguns to be reported to the local sheriff. Here, the information about the attacker’s gun purchases remained in federal hands."

RELATED: Texas This Week: State Rep. Joe Moody discusses committee report on Uvalde school shooting

So, what gun purchases are reported and to what agencies?

In 2011, the ATF received authorization through the Demand Letter Program of the National Tracing Center to get information on the sale of multiple rifles in states along the southwest border – Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas – to help with investigations into the illegal movement of firearms. So, anytime someone buys two or more semi-automatic rifles at one time or within five consecutive business days, the gun seller has to file a report with the ATF. That's what happened in the case of the Uvalde shooter. 

Similarly, gun sellers also have to report when someone buys two or more handguns at one time or within five consecutive business days to the ATF under the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986, which was a law amending the Gun Control Act of 1968. The ATF requires the form sellers fill out for those sales to also be sent to the chief local law enforcement official, which is the sheriff's office. 

The House committee notes that because of these rules, information about the attacker's purchases remained in federal hands. But it's unclear what, if anything, the sheriff's office could have done if it had that information prior to the May 24 attack.


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