Amidst a wave of mass shootings in Texas, a bill to increase the minimum age for purchasing a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 has passed a Texas House committee in a surprise vote. The bill would prohibit people under 21 from purchasing semiautomatic rifles that have a detachable magazine and a caliber greater than .22. However, police officers and members of the military would be exempted from this age restriction. The bill was introduced by Democratic Rep. Tracy King, who represents Uvalde, the site of a mass shooting almost a year ago, killing 21 people. Below are some key facts about the new gun control bill.
A Texas House committee approved a bill to increase the minimum age for purchasing a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21, following pressure from the families of the Uvalde school shooting victims & a recent mass shooting near Dallas that killed eight people.#TexasMassacre #Texas pic.twitter.com/SWlT2Bmj1L
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) May 9, 2023
- The Republican-led committee advanced the bill to the state House with an 8-5 vote, indicating a surprising shift towards tightening gun laws in a state that has previously relaxed its gun restrictions
- The passing of the bill, though unlikely to become law in the GOP-dominated legislature, is seen as a positive step by gun control advocates
- The vote came in response to the mounting pressure from families of the victims of last year’s Uvalde school shooting and just two days after a gun violence incident that killed eight people near Dallas
- Texas has been a victim of numerous mass shootings in recent months, with 50 incidents recorded in 2022 alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
- The full Texas House must vote on the bill by Thursday to progress through the legislature
Protesters’ Demand Gun Control Measures
On Monday, protesters gathered at the Texas Capitol chanting “Raise the age,” while Democratic state senators held a press conference calling for the bill’s vote. According to multiple Texas news outlets, the surprise vote came on the last day for House bills to be voted out of the committee. The bill’s passing signifies an unexpected move towards gun control measures in a state with increased gun violence.
The bill was initially presumed dead after an overnight hearing in which committee members debated it in April. However, with mounting pressure from recent shootings, including the mass shooting on May 7th in Allen, Texas, that killed eight people at a shopping mall, the bill was passed. The Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde, which occurred almost a year ago, prompted families of the victims to advocate for the bill’s passage throughout the session.
Calls for Gun Reform
The shooting in Allen, Texas, has led to numerous calls for gun reform, including from President Joe Biden. He called on Congress to send him a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying, “Republican Members of Congress cannot continue to meet this epidemic with a shrug.” The passing of this bill is seen as a significant move towards addressing gun violence in Texas.
The move is a significant step toward gun control measures in Texas. Despite the bill’s uncertain fate in the GOP-dominated legislature, its passing signifies a change in attitudes towards gun laws in a state that has previously loosened its gun restrictions. With mounting pressure from families of the victims and recent shootings, there is hope that more gun control measures will be implemented in Texas to address the issue of gun violence.
What is the Texas Gun Control Bill?
The gun control bill to advance in the Texas House requires background checks for all firearm sales in the state. The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee approved the bill on April 6th, 2021, and sent it to the Calendars Committee for scheduling.
Under the bill, all private gun sales in Texas would matter to a background check, closing what some have called the “gun show loophole.” The bill would also require gun sellers to keep records of all firearm transactions, which could help law enforcement agencies track guns used in crimes.
Texas History of Gun Violence
The push for gun control in Texas comes after a series of mass shootings that have rocked the state. In August 2019, a gunman killed twenty-two people and injured twenty-four others at a Walmart in El Paso. In November of the same year, a shooter killed two people and injured many others at a White Settlement church near Fort Worth. And in April 2021, eight people were killed in a gun shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, including four from Houston.
Many Texans are calling for stricter gun laws in the state. According to a 2021 poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune in March 2021, 49% of Texans believe that gun laws in the state should be stricter, 23% believe they should be less strict, and 26% believe they should be left as they are.
Texas has a long history of gun ownership and is known for its pro-gun culture. The state has some of the most permissive gun laws in the U.S., including a law that allows citizens to carry firearms openly in public places without a permit. However, some Texans are now questioning whether the state’s lax gun laws have contributed to the recent surge in gun violence.
Opposition Against Gun Control Bill
Opponents of gun control argue that stricter gun laws would infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights. They also point out that many mass shooters illegally obtain guns or have untreated mental health issues. They argue that addressing these root causes of gun violence would be more effective than passing gun control laws.
Despite the controversy surrounding the issue, the fact remains that gun violence is a serious problem in Texas and throughout the United States. While there is no single solution to the mounting problem, many believe that a combination of measures, including stricter gun laws, better mental health care, and increased enforcement of existing gun laws, could help reduce gun violence and make communities safer.