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A year after the Uvalde shooting, Texas’ gun laws remain the same

A person holds a sign with coffins on it that says, "Result of your failure."
Patricia Lim
Manuel Rizo, the uncle and godfather of 9-year-old Uvalde shooting victim Jackie Cazares, holds a sign during a demonstration in the Texas Capitol rotunda on May 8.

Brett Cross and his wife, Nikki Cross, have been coming to the Texas Capitol every week since January.

They’ve spent hours talking to reporters. More hours talking to lawmakers. And even more hours hearing that the politicians are thinking of and praying for them.

“I’ve been here almost every Tuesday since session started,” Nikki Cross told a group of gun control advocates protesting in the Texas Capitol rotunda earlier this month. “I’m angry, and I’m not going to give up.”

The Crosses lost their 10-year-old son Uziyah in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last year. This is personal for them.

That’s why both Brett and Nikki, along with the family members of the other Uvalde shooting victims, have been calling all year long on lawmakers to raise the minimum age to buy a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21.

For 11 months they didn’t hear any positive news — in fact, they mostly heard from lawmakers, like Gov. Greg Abbott, who told them changing the age was unconstitutional and a no-go.

But earlier this month, something surprising happened. A Texas House committee passed a measure that would have increased the minimum age.

Berlinda Arreola, the step-grandmother of 10-year-old Uvalde victim Amerie Jo Garza, celebrated the vote.

“It was just overwhelming,” she told reporters. “It was a huge, huge success for us.”

But that celebration was short-lived.

Even though the House committee passed the bill, the legislation missed a key deadline — so, barring any significant legislative maneuver, it’s presumed dead.

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Rep. Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande City, told reporters recently the measure faced the biggest challenge a measure can face.

“The support is not there in the Legislature, and that’s what happens with bills that don’t have the support in the Legislature,” he said.

Guillen says he believes there are other solutions to gun violence.

“I’m for taking guns away from bad people, not from good ones,” Guillen said. “We gotta find that balance to where we are taking them away from bad people and not from the good.”

Other Republicans have said raising the age is the right thing. Still, not enough of them are on board, and without them, changing the state’s laws around gun safety is impossible.

That hasn’t deterred the Uvalde families from continuing their fight.

Brett Cross, the father of Uziyah Garcia, promised to keep pushing for changes.

“We are not tiring out,” Cross told The Texas Newsroom recently. “We lost our damn children. We have fight!”

And part of that fight, the families say, is to go to the ballot box.

Manuel Rizo, the uncle and godfather of 9-year-old Uvalde shooting victim Jackie Cazares, said the focus – once the Legislature adjourns later this month – should turn to the politicians who have not supported changes to the state’s gun laws.

“We understand where they stand,” Rizo told The Texas Newsroom. “We are going to do everything that we can to vote them out.”

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