How area lawmakers voted on gun bills after recent mass shootings

87th legislative session featured dozens of bills on firearms, ammo, gun access

The shooting massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Tuesday has reignited the gun debate in Texas and throughout much of the country.

UVALDE, TexasRead the latest information about the Uvalde school shooting here. Learn about the victims of Robb Elementary School here.

The shooting massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Tuesday has reignited the gun debate in Texas and throughout much of the country.

The mass shooting by 18-year-old Salvador Ramos that killed 19 students and two teachers is the latest mass casualty incident involving firearms. It follows tragedies in recent years in Texas that took place in Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe High School near Houston, El Paso and Midland-Odessa.

During the 87th legislative session last year, elected state lawmakers weighed in on dozens of firearm-related bills that were later signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The Defenders analyzed the voting records of state senators and state representatives from San Antonio and the surrounding communities to see where they landed on several gun measures.

HB 1927

House Bill 1927, also called the “constitutional carry” bill, allows Texans 21 and older to carry a handgun without a license as long as they are not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm.

The controversial measure was largely split along party lines last year.

Rep. Diego Bernal, a Democrat from San Antonio, voted against the bill and recalled its passage on social media Wednesday.

Among the “Yeas” was Rep. Tracy King, a Democrat whose district includes the town of Uvalde.

King did not respond to an email sent Wednesday to his state representative office regarding his vote on constitutional carry.

“I don’t know how his community feels about it. But I can tell you most of the people we spoke to were not in support of removing licensing requirements to carry a loaded handgun in public,” said Nicole Golden, executive director of Texas Gun Sense.

The gun safety organization listed HB 1927 among its “dangerous bills” signed into law by Abbott last year.

“I would certainly ask that lawmakers look very closely at their decisions and whether they’re aligning with public safety,” Golden said.

She said there was interest at the state level to pass sensible gun laws in Texas after the Santa Fe High School shooting in 2018, only to see it wane.

As some lawmakers push the narrative that the answer to combating mass shootings lies in addressing mental health and not gun control, Golden points out that proposed “red flag” laws in Texas have also failed to gain traction.

These laws, which allow for the removal of firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others, have failed to make it out of committee during past Texas legislative sessions.

SB 162

Senate Bill 162, nicknamed the “Lie and Try” bill, made it a felony in Texas for would-be gun buyers to lie on a federal background check.

The measure received strong bipartisan support in both chambers of the Texas Legislature.

The only “nay” vote the Defenders could find among area elected officials was from Rep. Kyle Biedermann, a Republican from the Hill Country.

Biedermann, who did not seek reelection this year, was videotaped last year near the steps of the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection.

SB 313

Senate Bill 313, which exempts firearm safety equipment from state sales tax, had an avalanche of support at the legislature.

The Defenders could not find a single elected state official from San Antonio or its surrounding communities who voted against the measure.

SB 20

Senate Bill 20, written by Sen. Donna Campbell, a Republican from New Braunfels, allows hotel guests to store guns and ammunition in their rooms.

Heralded as a pro-2nd Amendment bill, records show area elected leaders were split on how to vote on it.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose massive district includes Uvalde, was at one point listed as an author of SB 20.

He told the Defenders via text message Wednesday that he ultimately voted “no” on the bill after its language was altered at the last minute.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.