DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wants to pass his bill that would prosecute fugitives and felons who lie on their gun background check applications.
While the measure would not have prevented the Allen man charged with the deadly shooting rampage in El Paso from obtaining his gun, Cruz said had an earlier version of the bill passed, it would have prevented the November, 2017 mass shooting at the church in Sutherland Springs.
"When he lied on the background check form and said he didn't have a felony conviction, he didn't have a domestic violence conviction, Grassley-Cruz would have said prosecute him for that felony and that shooter would have been in federal prison."
Under the bill, Cruz said the Justice Department would create a task force to prosecute criminals who try to illegally buy a gun.
It's all part of the legislation he and then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa re-filed in May after a similar bill they proposed in 2013 didn't pass.
Sen. Cruz said, "It got the most bipartisan support of any of the comprehensive legislation but sadly Harry Reid, then the Democratic leader, filibustered the bill and stopped it."
If someone lies on a background check application, they can be prosecuted and sent to prison for up to 10 years. But a report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) in September 2018 found that few people who are denied the ability to buy a firearm are prosecuted.
The report said some 112,000 applicants were denied in fiscal year 2017 and that more than 12,500 cases were referred by the ATF to it's field offices for further investigation.
The GAO found United States Attorneys Offices had prosecuted only 12 cases as of June 2018.
Cruz said he has consoled victims' families after all of the deadly mass-shootings in Texas, not only in El Paso and Sutherland Springs, but the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School last year and the one that killed five police officers in Downtown Dallas. "They're too damn many of these. We need to stop them."
Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates have called for universal background checks for gun purchases, which include individuals buying from each other.
Cruz said, "The Democrats' focus on that, but here's the thing to know. Virtually none of these mass murders are occurring through that. Their proposal would not have prevented any of the mass murders we've seen in the state of Texas."
Some Democrats have also called for a new ban on assault-style rifles and mandatory gun buyback programs.
Cruz said, "That's a mistake. it's not the right approach to take away from law-abiding citizens. Focus on the bad guys, not the people who are following the law."
Regarding red flag laws that take guns away from those considered dangerous, Sen. Cruz says they must not violate anyone's due process rights.
"How it's designed makes a huge difference but I think it should be at the state level. I think it shouldn't be the federal government imposing a solution on the whole country."
Cruz calls the El Paso shooter a white supremacist and domestic terrorist.
Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally has proposed a federal law outlawing domestic terrorism.
Cruz said, "I think Martha's bill makes a lot of sense. I haven't studied the particulars of it, but I think as an idea, there's no doubt what we saw in El Paso was terrorism."
Members of Congress are set to return to work next week after the August recess.
Regarding the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China, Cruz said he agreed with President Donald Trump's pressure to open that country's market to American goods. "I do think the area in trade where I most agree with the President has been leaning hard against China, China is a bad actor when it comes to trade. We don't trade with China on an even playing field."
Cruz said while China exports "massive amounts" of goods to the U.S. it blocks goods from farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers in Texas and the rest of the country.
A new survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas this week shows business uncertainty by Texas firms over trade with China has increased quite a bit this summer.
The U.S. and China have been levying more tariffs or taxes on each of their goods.
Even with the trade dispute, businesses in Texas are booming.
Senator Cruz said he believes in free trade without barriers, and that he hopes the dispute with China pays off for the U.S. "If they end up in that scenario where they open up that market and we have more exports, that's good for Texas. On the other hand, if we end up with tariffs all around, and a trade war, that's bad for Texas and so that uncertainty has a lot of Texans concerned."
As for the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which is set to replace NAFTA, Senator Cruz said he supports it, and that he believes the Senate would pass it.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said House Democrats want some concerns addressed first.
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