Texas House committee advances bill to raise age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles

The Texas House Select Committee on Community Safety advanced legislation raising the age to purchase certain semi-automatic rifles to 21 — with two Republican lawmakers joining Democrats to advance the legislation after mass shootings led to an outcry by gun control activists.

House Bill (HB) 2744 by Rep. Tracy King (D-Batesville) would amend Texas law to prohibit those under 21 years of age from purchasing semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines in calibers greater than .22.

Until an hour prior to the committee meeting on Monday, Chairman Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City) indicated to reporters that the bill would not advance due to a lack of support on the committee. But that status didn’t hold for long.

In laying out the legislation as the last order of committee business, Guillen announced that Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) proposed a committee substitute that will allow transfers of rifles to those under 21 in “certain circumstances,” but did not elaborate on the changes.

With the committee substitute receiving unanimous approval, the bill then passed 8 to 5, with Republican Reps. Sam Harless (R-Spring) and Justin Holland (R-Rockwall) joining six Democrats to move the bill forward.

The bill’s passage was met with a loud outburst of joy and tears from a full room of activists, including families of victims of the Robb Elementary massacre in Uvalde, Texas, who have been lobbying to advance this bill and other restrictive measures on guns.

Gun control groups immediately announced their focus would shift to Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), who chairs the powerful House Calendar Committee, to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Notably, Burrows is also a member of the Community Safety Committee and voted “no” on the legislation.

The bill’s approval in committee marks a significant victory for gun control groups in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

But with mounting pressure in the wake of several mass shootings to advance more restrictive proposals on guns, it remains to be seen whether any more GOP lawmakers will change their stances and cross the aisle on the issue.

Officials like Gov. Greg Abbott have questioned the constitutionality of the legislation, citing a recent ruling by a federal court in Texas that struck down a law banning those under 21 but over 18 from owning a handgun, saying that ruling would apply equally to rifles.

The previous legislative session was regarded a victory for gun rights activists in Texas, with top issues such as constitutional carry, a Second Amendment sanctuary state law, and relaxed restrictions on firearm suppressors all being signed into law in 2021.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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