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Texas may raise age to buy some semi-auto rifles

An AR-15 style rifle, shotgun, two 9mm handguns, magazines captured by the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office. (Philadelphia Sheriff's Office photo/Released)
May 24, 2023

A Texas bill that proposes to raise the legal age for purchasing so-called “assault rifles” to 21 years moved forward after passing in committee.

The legislation cleared the House Select Committee on Community Safety in an 8 to 5 vote with two Republicans voting with Democrats on the measure.

The news came after a shooting at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, where a gunman killed eight people and injured others with an AR-15-style rifle.

House Bill 2744 was introduced by family members of victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde last year in which a shooter killed 19 students and two teachers with a rifle. They argue that a higher minimum age could have helped prevent the shooting.

“Actually winning the vote — it was just overwhelming. It was a huge, huge success for us,” said Berlinda Arreola, the step-grandmother of 10-year-old Uvalde victim Amerie Jo Garza, according to Houston Public Media.

“I know that we are not done. We know that we have more fighting to do,” she added.

Republican Rep. Sam Harless of Spring, Texas, claimed that the lawmakers made the right decision. He was one of two GOP leaders on the committee to join Democrats in the decision.

“All of our kids have a right to go to school and they have the right to feel safe and so do their parents. The shootings right now are just happening too often,” Harless said, according to KUT. “So, if this is something we can do to stop it, then I’m all for it.”

The bill will next move to the House Calendars Committee where it will need to be scheduled for a full House vote. The chances of the legislation passing in the GOP-led state legislature remain low, but recent shootings may change the minds of some lawmakers previously opposed to the age change proposal.

Second Amendment advocates argue that the new bill is unconstitutional and would limit law-abiding citizens from purchasing firearms. In addition, those opposed argue that the change would not stop shootings but only stop those seeking to make legal purchases.

Texas residents from ages 18 to 20 are already barred from buying handguns in the state, with exceptions for military and law enforcement. The move to expand limitations to additional firearms continues to concern some in the state.

Others see the new proposal as the least that can be done to help stop future shootings. As shootings continue to make headlines in Texas and nationwide, the issue is likely to remain a high priority for many in the state’s legislature.