Texas House committee advances ‘Raise the Age’ gun bill before deadline, but it may be too late

AUSTIN – House Bill 2744 was nearly killed by inaction in the Community Safety Committee of the Texas House, but a last-minute save may not be enough to bring it to a vote in the full state House and Senate.

Monday was the last day before the deadline, and this was the last committee meeting to take action with an emotional last-ditch effort that paid off for HB 2744.

Families of those who have lost loved ones to gun violence got their wish to have the “Raise the Age” gun bill move out of committee onto the Texas House floor for potential debate.

The bill would raise the age limit to buy some semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. This latest push began after it was revealed that the gunman in the Robb Elementary shooting nearly one year ago bought his first weapons use that day on his 18th birthday.

Uvalde families react to the news

But as happy as this vote to get into the main floor of the House has made Uvalde victims’ family members, they are now faced with only a three-week-long window to get through both the state House and the Senate, and even then, it’s unlikely that Governor Greg Abbott would sign the bill into law.

Within seconds of the committee vote to move the “Raise the Age” bill forward, social media lit up with messages to the heavens for the children who died to mark this small but important moment in the Texas Legislature.

The community of mourning mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles for the 19 children who died in Uvalde were glad to see the bill move out of committee.

Kimberly Garcia, the mother to Amerie Garza -- a victim in the Robb Elementary shooting -- posted a picture of her child with the caption, “You did it. I will NEVER let anyone forget you. You’re making a difference Amerie.”

This joy came after what was tantamount to a public shaming directed at leaders who had failed to act on promises made a year ago to make schools safer for children.

A news conference at the Texas Capitol on Monday featured families of numerous mass shootings and activists.

Laura Garza, Amerie Jo Garza’s aunt, spoke tearfully before the cameras, saying, “I can’t imagine how it feels to have so much power. And yet here we are on the last day, still hoping you’ll do the right thing. Do what’s right, and raise the age.”

Another victim’s guardian, Nikki Cross, spoke on behalf of her child Uziyah Garcia, asking, “What will you do for the rest of Texas? What will you do for the next community? Do you hope we just go away? Because if that’s the case, you’re sadly mistaken. We will be back.”

These harsh condemnations to lawmakers apparently hit their mark when hours later, in a surprise move, the House committee that had not acted since April 18 on the Uvalde families’ push for gun reform got at least this one wish granted.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez issued the following statement in response:

“Nothing can bring back the lives we’ve lost, but this will help to save lives in the future. We need to see this bill passed.”

But Texas Capitol watchers say don’t hold your breath for more action than what was seen on Monday. Aside from primary election backlash fears, they feel lawmakers cannot get past Abbott’s desk on any gun control legislation.

Scott Braddock, editor of the Quorum Report, lamented that the Uvalde families, in particular, have been treated roughly by the legislative process and will have little to show for it other than keeping the conversation going. He thinks this bill and others are doomed.

Braddock said, “It’s fair to say that this absolutely is not going to happen before this legislative session is over.”

And he’s likely right, since right now, that leaves more than 100 gun bills spawned by the recent epidemic of mass shootings in Texas still waiting for consideration in a committee that only had until the end of business day on Monday to act.

The deadline for the House to distribute its last House daily calendar with bills and joint resolution is 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 9.

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About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.