Would Rep. Steve Stockman Pass A Firearms Background Check?
As President Barack Obama prepares to announce his plans to fight gun violence, Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) is warning that he will move to impeach the president if Obama issues executive orders that regulate guns. Stockman’s concern may be one of self-interest, however; due to his checkered past and criminal record, stricter gun laws could impact Stockman’s own ability to purchase a firearm.
Although the most commonly discussed gun safety measures (such as renewing the assault weapons ban or limiting high-capacity magazines) must be enacted by Congress, President Obama can take several important steps on his own. These measures could include strengthening the database that the FBI uses to conduct background checks, or restoring funding for gun safety research.
To Stockman, these moves would represent a criminal offense.
“The White House’s recent announcement they will use executive orders and executive actions to infringe on our Constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms is an unconstitutional and unconscionable attack on the very founding principles of this republic,” Stockman said in a statement. “I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment.”
It’s hardly surprising that Stockman — who claims to be “100 percent pro-gun, 100 percent of the time,” is backed by the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and Texas State Rifle Association, and has sponsored legislation banning all background checks, waiting periods, and registration of firearms — would be outraged by Obama’s gun control efforts. But his impeachment threat may not just be a continuation of the GOP’s Clinton-era political strategies (or of Ron Paul’s legacy of launching absurd conspiracy theories from Texas’ 36th District.) It could also be an attempt to preserve his own ability to buy a gun.
According to a July 23, 1995 Houston Chronicle article by Richard Stewart (which is currently behind a pay wall), in 1977 Stockman was charged with a felony for drug possession. Stockman claims that when he reported to prison to serve a two day sentence on a driving violation — something that happened “more than once” — his girlfriend stuck three Valium tablets in his pants. The charge was eventually reduced, and Stockman served probation.
Under current Texas law, Stockman can legally purchase and own a firearm; even felons have their gun rights restored after a five-year waiting period in the Lone Star State. In the unlikely scenario that Congress comprehensively reforms gun-buying laws, however, Stockman could be at risk. And in any case, his close call may have informed his strong opinion on helping criminals get access to deadly weapons.
There are other incidents in Stockman’s past which should raise questions about his extremist views on guns. The same Houston Chronicle article notes that in 1980 Stockman was homeless for a full year, during which time he briefly partnered with a homeless Vietnam veteran for protection.
“He was always seeing things in the trees. It scared me, so I got away from him,” Stockman said. Although Stockman was too afraid to be near the mentally disturbed man then, he is adamant that the man should be able buy whatever weapon he wants now, with absolutely no background check or oversight necessary.
Then again, Stockman himself is no stranger to paranoia; in 1995, he put forth a loony theory that the Waco siege was a backdoor plot by the Clinton administration to ban assault weapons. “The Branch Davidians were executed … because they owned guns that the government did not wish them to have,” he warned in Guns and Ammo magazine.
If the president and Congress step up mental health screening of gun buyers, then Stockman’s right to bear arms may be in jeopardy after all.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com