Stalled gun bill advances in Texas after new mass shootings

Protesters gather at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, Monday, May 8, 2023, to call for tighter regulations on gun sales. A gunman killed several people at a Dallas-area mall Saturday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Facing renewed calls for stricter gun control after a mass shooting near Dallas, a Republican-led Texas House committee advanced a bill Monday that would raise the purchase age for semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21 even though the proposal has little or no chance of actually becoming law.

The Select Committee on Community Safety voted 8-5, with two Republicans joining six Democrats, to advance the bill to the full House after protesters’ chants of “Do Something!” echoed through the hallways of the Capitol building in the country’s largest red state. Some families whose children were killed in the attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last year cried following the vote.

The measure is unlikely to become law, as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has previously waved off the idea of allowing only people 21 or older to purchase guns like those used in many of the country’s worst mass shootings, including Texas’. But the bill even getting and clearing a committee vote was unusual.

The bill had languished for weeks prior to the weekend shooting that left eight people dead at Allen Premium Outlets, a sprawling outdoor shopping center, and it getting a committee vote amounted to something of an about-face for Republicans.

Republican state Rep. Ryan Guillen, who chairs the House Select Committee on Community Safety, said Monday that he still believes there is not enough support in the Legislature for the bill to ultimately pass. He voted against the measure leaving his committee, which passed the bill on what was effectively the last possible day to so with time running out before the legislative session ends later this month.

When asked why the bill was suddenly coming up for a vote after weeks of inaction, Guillen said nothing had changed.

The push to raise the age has been led for months in the Texas Capitol by some families of the 19 children and two teachers who were killed in Uvalde when an 18-year-old gunman with an AR-style rifle opened fire in a fourth-grade classroom.

Mack Segovia, whose stepdaughter, Eliahna, was killed at Robb Elementary, attended the Capitol rally on Monday wearing a shirt with a photo of her in her softball uniform.

“It happened again. And it’s going to happen again and again and again,” Segovia said. “It happened this weekend in a mall. You’re not safe anywhere, anywhere we’re at anymore … It’s going to strike again, we just don’t know where.”