Bill to raise purchase age for certain assault-style rifles passes House committee

On the last day to move legislation out of committee, two Republicans sided with their Democratic counterparts to move a gun-related bill to the House floor.

The Community Safety, Select Committee passed House Bill 2744 with an 8-5 vote.

It still has little chance in the full House and would not have affected the Allen shooter getting 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 an Allen outlet mall, Democrat lawmakers didn’t hold back in pointing fingers at Republicans. 

"I’m sorry. You can take your thoughts and prayers and you can put them… you know where to tell them to put them," said State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio).

Two Republicans, Rep. Sam Harless from Spring and Rep. Justin Holland from Rockwall, joined the committee's Democrats voting for the bill.

HB 2744 would raise the age from 18 to 21 to own "a semiautomatic rifle that is capable of accepting a detachable magazine and that has a caliber greater than .22."

The bill contains exceptions for if the individual is a peace officer, a member of the United States armed forces or has been honorably discharged from the United States armed forces.

The Allen mass shooting is the latest in a list of what seems like a monthly occurrence in the U.S.

Monday, while giving a border security update in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott took one question about the shooting. 

"I believe in the coming days the public will be better informed about why and how this happened," he said. "That will inform us as Texas leaders about next steps to take to try and prevent crimes from happening in the future."

But the governor did not address any gun law legislation.

Protestors gathered inside the state capital Monday on what was the deadline for house bills to pass committee. 

HB 2744 was one of the gun bills inspired by the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

The bill was filed by Democratic Rep. Tracy King who represents Uvalde.

Family members of the victims from Uvalde were in Austin with their own messages.

"Do you hope we will just go away? Because if that's the case, you're sadly mistaken," said Nicole Cross, whose son was killed in the Uvalde shooting.

Sen. Gutierrez, who has been critical of Abbott since Uvalde, blamed incidents like the Allen shooting on Republicans, claiming they made access easier for people who should not have guns. 

"Don’t tell people that the people who died in Allen, Texas, are mostly minorities. Don’t have that conversation because I am going to go down to the border and blame Biden for some bullshit that’s nonexistent," he said. "We can talk about that, but that is not what today is about. Today is about the reality, and the reality is we are in a more dangerous state because Republicans have made it more dangerous. Because of loose gun laws."

HB 2477 is not expected to become law and likely would not have made a difference in the 33-year-old Allen shooter obtaining a weapon because he's over 21.

But some, including Republicans like Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, say it can be a bipartisan start to saving other lives. 

Abbott joined the Allen community Sunday for a vigil. He says he understands the urgent need for more answers but did not speak to any gun reforms in his answer. 

"They want to know right now, why this happened, how it happened. The investigators were unable to provide specifics 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 the House, but that he would not stand in the way for a vote to be held.

The bill faces long odds among the Republican majority in the full House and Texas Governor Greg Abbott has raised concern that it would be declared unconstitutional.

A similar bill in the Senate has not received a hearing.