An assault weapons bill that had unexpectedly advanced in Texas’ Republican-controlled legislature earlier in the week missed a key deadline to receive a floor vote, likely dooming it in this legislative session.
Thursday marked the last day that bills can be scheduled in the Texas state House before the legislature adjourns May 29. The Community Safety committee had voted to advance the bill Monday, after two Republicans voted with the committee’s Democrats, days after a deadly shooting over the weekend in Allen, Texas, left eight dead.
In the wake of several deadly mass shootings in the past few years, in particular, the 2022 massacre in Uvalde by an 18-year-old gunman, Texas Democrats have tried to raise the age to purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21. Families from Uvalde have been lobbying continuously at the Texas Capitol since the legislative session began in January.
Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter Jacklyn was killed in Uvalde along with 18 of her classmates and two teachers, told CBS News that “we’re still hopeful, you know, things will change, but in the meantime we have to worry about another shooting.”
“We had to live through it,” Cazares said, “and I hate for somebody else to live through it, but if these laws don’t change, it’s gonna keep on happening.”
With only three days left after the committee vote before the deadline, it was unlikely to reach the floor “unless something miraculous happened,” said Sherri Greenberg, assistant dean at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at University of Texas-Austin.
There are still a few avenues for legislation to be passed before the session ends — like adding it as an amendment to another bill. There are two gun-related bills in the Senate, but neither has received a committee hearing, according to CBS Texas.
But even if the bill were to be considered by the full state House, it would likely have been defeated, since Republicans hold an 82-67 majority, and in the state Senate, the GOP has a 19-12 majority. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has also said he does not support gun control legislation.
Families from Uvalde and other gun control activists were at the Capitol on Monday, flooding the hallways and chanting “raise the age” and “do something!” After the bill advanced, cheers broke out in the chamber.
Brett Cross, whose child 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia was killed at Uvalde, tweeted after the vote “let’s f***ing go! We had to force it but they voted to get HB2744 out of committee!! Uzi, this is for you! Our 21 angels, this is for you! 1st step but WE ARE NOT DONE!!!!”
One of the Republicans who had voted with Democrats, Rep. Justin Holland, tweeted a statement saying, “I do not believe in gun control.”
“But after listening to many hours of testimony over this session, I became convinced that this small change to the law might serve as a significant roadblock to a young person (not old enough to buy tobacco or alcohol) acquiring a specific type of semi-automatic rifle intent upon using it in a destructive and illegal manner,” Holland wrote.
Some of the deadliest mass shootings in the past couple of years have taken place in Texas, in addition to the one in Uvalde, the 2019 El Paso shooting left 23 dead and the Midland-Odessa shootings left eight dead; another at Santa Fe High School in 2018 killed 10, and a gunman killed 26 in the Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017.
Joshua Blank, the director of research for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas-Austin, said polling has shown a split between Democratic and Republican voters about how best to address gun violence. An “overwhelming majority” of Democrats — about 75% — believe less guns will make communities safer, while two-thirds of Texas Republicans believe more guns will make communities safer.
“So when you consider the fact that two-thirds of the Republican electorate in Texas think that the solution to gun violence might be more guns, not fewer, it creates a serious challenge to a Republican legislature in trying to craft any kind of response to gun violence that would include any prohibition on gun ownership,” Blank said.