Gun reform bill passes Texas Senate on unanimous vote

Background checks are required when purchasing a gun, but in Texas, there is no centralized database to check. That includes case histories on juvenile mental health cases. 

SB 728 will require county clerks, who have that information, to send it to the Department of Public Safety. The case histories can then be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System

The bill was filed by Senator Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston.

"It is a big deal. It's very important because it does provide for juveniles who are you know, that their history about their mental issues will show up when they attempt to purchase a weapon. And it is important because clearly those are the types of people that should not be buying weapons and being out in the street with weapons," said Senator Huffman.

The bill, which passed the Senate on a unanimous vote, was designated as an emergency item by Governor Greg Abbott. It brings Texas in line with the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Congress passed last year. 

The vote was praised by San Antonio Democrat Roland Gutierrez, but he also noted it was only a first step.

"It's a big moment. It's important that we begin to have a dialog on gun safety and access to guns in the hands of minors, in the hands of young people. We need to be talking about minors having access to AR15, 18, 19 and 20-year-olds. We need to get there," said Sen. Gutierrez.

Several senators were brought out of the chamber by Senator Gutierrez, and met with a group from Uvalde before Sen. Huffman's juvenile background check bill was brought up for a vote. The impromptu gathering was appreciated, but Brett Cross who lost his daughter in the mass shooting, made it clear, for them, tougher gun control legislation is needed.

"I honestly, I don't feel like it's real to a lot of people until they see us, and they see that we're here without our children trying to make changes for the future. Because no matter what we say or do, our children are coming back. But we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that nobody else ends up in this position," said Cross.

The vote on SB 728 Wednesday could be considered a victory for some gun control advocates. However, the call for legislation, like increasing the age to purchase an assault-style rifle from 18 to 21, face a much more difficult debate. 

Wednesday's vote was a good signal for another gun reform bill that involves a waiting period for gun purchases by juveniles. It could provide additional time for background checks to be completed under Huffman's SB 728. 

One more procedural vote in the Senate on SB 728 is set before the bill moves to the House.