Uvalde parents protest, Raise-the-age gun bill deadline missed in Texas House.
After a glimmer of hope for the gun control advocates and families of Uvalde shooting victims, their unexpected elation dissolved into despair, as a bill that sought to raise the age requirement to legally purchase semi-automatic rifles did not make it onto the Texas House’s agenda ahead of a crucial deadline. Without a last-minute shift in the situation, this delay likely spells the end of the bill’s chances of becoming law.
The bill, filed by the Democratic Representative Tracy King of Batesville, proposes that individuals younger than 21 years should not be sold, rented, leased, or given a semi-automatic rifle with a caliber greater than .22 that is capable of accepting a detachable magazine. This increase in the age requirement from 18 years was particularly significant given the recent tragic events that have rocked the state, particularly the deadly shooting at an Allen shopping mall.
While the proposal has long faced stiff odds in a state that has consistently loosened gun restrictions in recent years, the unexpected advancement of the proposal by an 8-5 vote that included two Republicans changed things. However, the advancement provided little time for the bill to be added to the House’s hectic calendar. The final day to pass bills is Thursday, with the chamber’s agenda needing to be approved 36 hours before they convene. This creates a de facto deadline of around 10 p.m. to get the measure placed on the calendar.
Unfortunately, when that hour arrived Tuesday night, House Bill 2744 was not on the list, much to the frustration of supporters of the measure, particularly parents of children who died at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, who have been advocating for it all session. A small group stood outside the House chamber holding signs and chanting minutes before 10 p.m., urging the House to put the bill up for debate.
Among the parents, Brett Cross, whose 10-year-old son Uziyah Garcia was shot to death by an AR-15 rifle in one of Robb’s classrooms, was particularly vocal. When it became apparent the bill would not be debated, a few Democrats left the chamber to console him, but witnesses in the Capitol said that a Department of Public Safety trooper approached him with a decibel monitor, informing him he was being too loud. He continued chanting the bill’s number as he left.
Opposition to the bill has been relatively silent in the legislature, but Republican leadership is fiercely protective of gun rights, reluctant to advance anything that challenges them. Gun advocates assert that the measure would do little to deter crime and only hinder law-abiding gun owners, reiterating that gun ownership is an entrenched American right that should not be infringed upon by the government. Despite the bill getting a hearing last month, which marked a milestone in a gun-friendly legislature, it was left in committee and was set to remain there.
Given the unlikelihood of the bill passing, proponents have expressed their frustration, with some leaving signs urging its passage outside the Calendars Committee’s meeting room. Others protested outside the office of Representative Ryan Guillen, the chair of the committee that advanced the bill on Monday. It remains to be seen how the advocates will respond to the death of this bill and what other approaches lawmakers could use to revive the proposal.