Austin, Texas – On the final day to move the legislation out of committee, two Republicans sided with their Democratic counterparts to bring a gun-related bill into the House.
The Community Safety, Select Committee passed House Bill 2744 by a vote of 8-5.
He still has little chance in the entire house and would not have swayed Allen’s shooter to get a gun. But as Democrats and activists lobby for tougher gun laws, it was a surprising moment.
Two days after 8 people were killed and others injured by a gunman at an Allen mall, Democratic lawmakers haven’t held back in pointing the finger at Republicans.
“I’m sorry. You can take your thoughts and your prayers and you can put them… you know where to tell them to put them,” said state Senator Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio).
Two Republicans, Rep. Sam Harless of Spring and Rep. Justin Holland of Rockwall, joined Democrats on the committee who voted in favor of the bill.
HB 2744 would raise the age from 18 to 21 for owning “a semi-automatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine and having a caliber greater than .22”.
The bill contains exceptions if the individual is a peace officer, a member of the United States military, or has been honorably discharged from the United States military.
Allen’s mass shooting is the latest on a list of what appears to be a monthly event in the United States
While delivering an update on border security in Austin on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott responded to a question about the shooting.
“I think the public will be better informed about why and how this happened in the coming days,” he said. “This will inform us as leaders of Texas about the next steps we can take to try and prevent crimes from happening in the future.”
But the governor has not addressed any gun law legislation.
Protesters gathered inside the state capital on Monday in what was the deadline for passing the house bills in committee.
HB 2744 was one of the gun bills inspired by the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
The bill was introduced by Democrat Rep. Tracy King representing Uvalde.
Family members of Uvalde’s victims were in Austin with their messages.
“Do you hope we’ll leave? Because if we do, you’re sadly wrong,” said Nicole Cross, whose son was killed in the Uvalde shooting.
Senator Gutierrez, who has been critical of Abbott since Uvalde, blamed Republicans for incidents like the Allen shooting, arguing they made it easier for people who shouldn’t have guns to access.
“Don’t tell people that the people who died in Allen, Texas are mostly minorities. Don’t have that conversation because I’m going to go to the border and blame Biden for some bullshit that doesn’t exist,” he said. “We can talk about it, but that’s not what it’s about today. It’s about reality today, and the reality is that we’re in a more dangerous state because the Republicans made it more dangerous. Because of the gun laws.”
HB 2477 is not expected to become law and probably wouldn’t have made a difference if Allen’s 33-year-old shooter got a firearm because he’s over 21.
But some, including Republicans like Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, say it can be a bipartisan start to saving more lives.
Abbott joined the Allen community on Sunday for a vigil. He says he understands the urgent need for more responses, but in his response he didn’t mention any gun reforms.
“They want to know right away, why it happened, how it happened. Investigators have been unable to provide details at this time,” he said.
Earlier this year, House Speaker Dade Phelan said he did not believe HB 2744 would have the votes to pass in the House, but that he would not object to holding a vote.
The bill faces long-standing difficulties among the Republican majority in the full House and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed concern it will be ruled unconstitutional.
A similar bill in the Senate has not received a hearing.