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

The Texas House Select Committee on Community Safety voted on Monday, May 8 to raise the minimum age to buy an assault style rifle from 18 to 21. 

The Committee room erupting in applause as many in attendance were family members of the Robb Elementary School victims. The vote was 8 to 5. 

The committee's decision follows another deadly mass shooting in Texas on Saturday, May 6. A gunman opened fire at an outlet mall in Allen, killing eight people. Victims ranged in age from children to 61 years old. 


Federal officials have been looking for a motive in Texas. This is also the second mass shooting in just a week. 

On Fox News Sunday, Governor Abbott blamed the shooting on mental health. 

Travis County Democratic Chair Katie Naranjo and Travis County GOP chair Matt Mackowiak joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

MIKE WARREN: Matt, do you think the committee's move to raise the age on assault style weapon purchases has anything to do with Allen or Cleveland or Uvalde?

MATT MACKOWIAK: I don't know if it has anything to do with the two most recent events. I do think the parents and the community members Simi Valley have had an effect on lobbying at the Capitol. Again, this is just a House committee vote. It has to go through the state House, a full House vote. And, of course, that goes to the full Senate, which I think is unlikely. Keep in mind, there's already a multi day waiting period for anyone who purchased a weapon from 18 to 20, whose I think it's between three and ten days, at which time the federal government does enhanced background check. And there are significant constitutional questions based on the 2022 Supreme Court ruling whether this could even hold up. So some hurdles still ahead. I don't know that we're going to see additional gun control come out of this legislative session. I do think focusing on mental health would be a good thing that would have bipartisan support on all sides. 

MIKE WARREN: Katie, Matt seems kind of doubtful, but does this House bill 2744 have a chance to get through? 

KATIE NARANJO: Well, the next step would be to go through the Calendars committee. So getting with Representative Burrows is the chair of the Calendars Committee to get set for a floor vote. Obviously, he was one of the no votes today. But the reality is, is Texans, a majority of Texans, myself as a mother of a child and person who just goes to church or shopping or exists in Texas wants to see real change. We are continuing to see daily violence in Texas that this legislature can't prevent. And so the Calendars Committee is the next step in that hurdle to get set on a House calendar and to advocate to Speaker Phelan and to Lieutenant Governor Patrick to bring it to the floor for a vote. 

MIKE WARREN: Right. Matt, Katie just alluded to that. A recent poll showing three quarters of Texans want to raise the age to purchase these assault style weapons. Does something like that ever pass in the state of Texas? 

MATT MACKOWIAK: I mean, forever's a long time. Public opinion does obviously change. In addition to that poll. I would also point to the most recent gubernatorial election in Texas, where the Democratic nominee, Beto O'Rourke, aggressively ran on gun control and lost by 11 points to our governor. So, you know, any poll can come up with any result that you wanted to pass. A lot of the sample depends on how the question is asked. In the Cleveland and Allen cases. This law wouldn't have affected because the shooter wasn't in that age range, I believe. So, you know, we have to look at each one of these instances and see was the law applied? Were gun crimes carried out and prosecuted? A lot of cases, including in Travis County or D.A. consistently does not prosecute violent crime and gun crimes. So we want to try to understand why these things are happening. Each one of these cases is a unique case, and you can't prevent something from happening once it's already happened. So I realize it's a difficult problem. 

MIKE WARREN: To that point, Katie, does this legislation really solve anything? 

KATIE NARANJO: This is one piece of the puzzle. There are still many options available that need to be considered. There were two other bills that could have been heard by the Select committee today that weren't one that required background checks. Another that required a waiting period. And those did not make it through. So this is a continued conversation. I know that Matt wants to point to just mental health and not address the guns in the situation. And our stance is that you have to do both. The reality is, is you have to do both gun safety, basic gun safety and mental health.

MIKE WARREN: Okay. Well, for now, the legislation is still alive. We're out of time. Katie, Matt, thank you both very much.