Age-raising gun bill misses crucial deadline, as Uvalde’s parents protest outside Texas House

Gun control advocates and families of Uvalde shooting victims were left in despair on Tuesday when a bill proposing the legal age for purchasing semiautomatic rifles be raised lost momentum and missed a vital deadline. The delay marks the likely end of the bill’s chances of becoming law in Texas. The proposal has struggled in a state that has consistently relaxed gun restrictions over recent years. However, following the recent deadly shooting at an Allen mall, a House committee surprisingly voted 8-5 in favor of the legislation on Monday, including support from two Republicans.

However, this vote left little time for the bill to be added to the House calendar. The last chance for the House to pass bills is Thursday. Therefore, the agenda must be approved 36 hours beforehand, creating a deadline to add the measure at 10 pm on Tuesday. Despite parents of children who died at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, showing vocal support for the bill all session, it remained off the list. A group was seen standing outside the House floor, protesting, and demanding it be heard. However, this was not enough to change the outcome.

HB2744, filed by Democrat Rep. Tracy King of Batesville, proposed prohibiting the sale, rental, lease, or delivery of a semiautomatic rifle with a caliber greater than .22 capable of accepting a detachable magazine to a person under 21 years old. This was an increase from the age of 18 years old. The proposal included various exemptions, in response to constituents’ concerns. Opposition to the bill was not vocal in the legislature. However, the Republican leadership is defensive of gun rights and resistant to change that challenges them. Gun advocates believe the measure would do little to deter crime and only harm law-abiding gun owners. They argue that gun ownership is an ingrained American right that the government must not violate.

HB2744 had not progressed out of committee until scores of supporters, including many relatives of those killed by gunfire, filled the Capitol building to urge lawmakers to move it forward. Though supporters try other methods to revive the bill, its proponents are reconciling with the likelihood that the measure will fail. Even if it were to pass the House, there is skepticism about getting it through the Senate, which is even more reluctant towards this proposal.

When it became clear on Tuesday that the bill was – once again – in jeopardy of not being passed, supporters expressed their frustration. Some have left signs urging their passage outside the calendar committee’s meeting room. Others protested outside the office of Rep Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande City, the chairman of the committee that moved the bill forward on Monday. Lawmakers could use other ways to revive the proposal. But it is genuinely realistic that the measure will ultimately fail.

“How many more children have to die before we act?”, asked one supporter, Bishop John Ogletree, a Houston pastor, in a statement. The bill sought to address this question and many others that have been asked by stakeholders across the country, with voices only growing louder in the aftermath of violent incidents.

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