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Bill to raise assault-style weapon purchase age fails after missing key deadline

A woman holds a sign saying, "Love our kids more than guns," during a demonstration in the Texas Capitol rotunda Monday.
Patricia Lim
A woman holds a sign saying, "Love our kids more than guns," during a demonstration in the Texas Capitol rotunda Monday.

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Two days after a Texas House committee surprisingly advanced a measure that would restrict access to certain guns, the bill now seems to have died.

House Bill 2744 would increase the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.

It has been supported by the families of the victims of last year’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Families have rallied at the Capitol multiple times this year to draw attention to the proposal.

But on Tuesday, lawmakers failed to ensure the bill met a key deadline, arguably leaving the measure — barring any extraordinary maneuver from lawmakers — dead this legislative session.

Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the mother of 10-year-old Uvalde victim Alexandria "Lexi" Aniyah Rubio, blamed Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican lawmakers for the bill not moving forward.

“This isn’t over — We will regroup, re-strategize and come back stronger,” Mata-Rubio tweeted Tuesday night. “It’s my personal mission to travel to your districts and share Lexi’s story, and the disrespect shown to Uvalde families.”

The families of the shooting at Robb Elementary have said that if the laws around assault weapons purchases were different, the shooting could have been prevented.

The Uvalde gunman bought two AR-15 weapons just days after his 18th birthday — the current minimum age to buy such firearms.

From its inception, the bill faced an uphill battle.

Since last year, Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have said making the change is unconstitutional.

Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, said in a panel at The Texas Tribune Festival in September 2022 that “we have made a decision that the age of majority when your rights vest, vest at the age of 18.”

“Whether that's voting, being drafted, in the criminal justice system, or the Second Amendment, that is the decision we've made,” Burrows added. “So, I don't know how the courts or us can discriminate between the ages of 18 and 21.”

Burrow is the chair of the House Calendars Committee, the panel in charge of scheduling bills for a floor vote. The last day for the committee to schedule a House vote on HB 2744 was Tuesday.

The committee didn’t advance the bill to the House floor. Now, the bill cannot be voted on by the full House unless it becomes an amendment to a different measure.

Burrows’ office declined The Texas Newsroom’s request for comment.

“Uvalde families didn’t fail. Texas politicians did,” Mata-Rubio said in a tweet. “We were up against a brick wall but the dent we left is notable. We’ll be back.”

Gloria Cazares, the mother of 9-year-old Uvalde shooting victim Jacklyn Cazares, vowed to keep fighting for a change of law.

“We are not going away and we will not back down!”Cazares tweeted, singling out House Speaker Dade Phelan, Burrows and Abbott. “Now that you know who we are, be ready because you f----- with the wrong families and we aren’t done!”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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