Texas House panel OKs bill raising age to buy semi-automatic rifles days after Allen mall shooting

**EDITOR'S NOTE: The original headline from this story has been altered for length**

In a surprise move days after the Allen mall shooting and hours before a key legislative deadline, a Texas House committee advanced a bill Monday that would raise the minimum age to purchase certain semi-automatic rifles.

The bill faces an uphill climb to becoming state law, but the vote marked a milestone for the proposal that relatives of Uvalde shooting victims have been pushing for months.

Several relatives of children who were killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting last year sobbed when the committee voted 8-5 to send the bill to the House floor. Republican state Reps. Sam Harless and Justin Holland joined with Democrats on the House Community Safety Select Committee to advance the bill.

Less than two hours earlier, some of the relatives of Uvalde victims had urged the committee chair, Rep. Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande, to give House Bill 2744 a vote before a key deadline Monday.

"One year ago today, my daughter had her communion. About a month later, she was buried in that same dress," Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter Jacklyn was killed in the Uvalde shooting, said during an emotional press conference. "Mr. Guillen, and anybody else who is stopping this bill from passing, sad to say but more blood will be on your hands."

Monday marks the last day House bills can be voted out of committee in the lower chamber. House bills that don’t meet that deadline face increasingly difficult odds of becoming law, though there are some avenues through which measures left in committees could be revived.

HB 2744, filed by Democratic Rep. Tracy King, whose district includes Uvalde, was debated before the House select committee last month during a hearing in which relatives of Uvalde victims shared emotional accounts of lives torn asunder by gun violence.

Monday’s legislative deadline falls two days after a gunman in Allen, a Dallas suburb of about 100,000 people, killed eight shoppers at an outdoor mall with an AR-15-style rifle — the same type of weapon used by the gunman in Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were killed.

Because the man identified as the gunman in Allen was 33, raising the age limit for semi-automatic rifle purchases likely wouldn’t have kept him from purchasing such a weapon. But Saturday’s shooting renewed calls for tightening some gun laws in a state whose lawmakers have loosened firearm restrictions despite repeated mass shootings.

On Sunday, after the Allen shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott again doubled down on the GOP’s resistance to gun control legislation.

House Speaker Dade Phelan said earlier this year that he does not believe HB 2744 has the votes to pass the chamber, but that he won’t stand in the way of it being debated. A similar bill in the Senate has not yet received a hearing. And Abbott has said the law would not be constitutional.

This article first appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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