Days after a bloody mass shooting in a Dallas suburb, families from another gruesome mass shooting in Texas gathered at the Texas state capitol to demand reform of the state’s notorious permissibility gun law.
Almost a year had passed since a young gunman shot dead 19 students and two teachers at a primary school in the city of Uvalde. Police arrived at Robb Elementary School a few minutes after the shooting began but it took more than an hour for police to enter and confront and kill the shooter. Since the massacre, the families of the victims have continued to press Texas lawmakers to pass measures to ensure stricter gun control.
On May 6, another massacre took place in Texas, in a shopping center in the city of Allen. The families of Uvalde did not take long to meet at the capitol to ask the legislators to approve, at least, the measure that they consider a priority: raising from 18 to 21 the minimum age for Texans to be able to buy semi-automatic firearms. They lined the aisles as legislators made their way to the House of Representatives, holding banners and chanting the slogan “raise the age,” which, in part, alludes to the Uvalde shooter, who had turned 18 a few days earlier. to commit the kill.
The struggle of families to change the law
“If this bill had been law in the state of Texas a year ago, that young man would not have been able to [comprar] the semi-automatic weapon he used to kill our daughter,” said Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was killed at the Uvalde school. “Our hearts may be broken, but our resolve has never been stronger,” she added during a Texas House of Representatives committee hearing.
The truth is that the strong determination of the Uvalde families has not translated into major legislative advances in the last year, hampered by the Republican majority in the assembly and a like-minded governor who has opposed even the most insignificant measures to control weapons.
“Disappointment is not a strong enough word to describe the passivity of the legislature,” says Nicole Golden, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, which advocates for gun control laws in the state: “We continue to take steps in that direction. , aware that we have a long way to go”.
In Washington, US President Joe Biden signed a federal bill a month after the Uvalde shooting, introducing some changes to congressional gun control measures. In Texas, more than 300 gun-related bills have been introduced this spring, but only a handful will pass. Those that do pass will likely not significantly reduce access to guns in that state, and some may even make them even more accessible.
One year after the massacre
The federal government’s response to the Uvalde shooting −which marks one year this week− was swift. President Biden hastened to push Congress to pass sweeping control measures, such as an assault weapons ban. Although most Republicans have come out against stricter gun control, US Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has led negotiations to pass slight adjustments.
Specifically, a legal loophole has been resolved, known as the “boyfriend loophole”, a regulation that prohibited people convicted of crimes of domestic violence from owning a firearm. Previously, the ban only affected spouses or partners who live together or have a child together. The new law expands that definition to include engaged couples.
The approval has been an important milestone for gun control advocates. Congress had not passed a similar gun control measure in nearly 30 years. “At a time when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something important,” Biden said when he signed the law.
Since then, there have been more than 650 mass shootings in the US, according to the count of the nonpartisan organization Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are killed or injured.
Following this series of massacres, Biden has once again called for an assault weapons ban and other stricter gun control measures. The US president has described the lack of response from the Republicans as “outrageous and unacceptable”. To a large extent, that passive attitude is due to Texas legislators. At the state level, there has been little remedy for the mass shootings, apart from tangential promises to improve psychological assistance and other stopgap measures.
The Texas Pitfall
The Texas state legislature only meets five months every two years, so lobby groups supporting gun control and others who instead support greater access to guns flocked to the Austin capitol this spring. of fire.
Many of the measures have stalled in the Texas capitol. These include community violence intervention laws, background check requirements and raising the minimum age to own a firearm, as well as red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders. , since they allow authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who a judge considers to be a threat.
Texas Gun Sense CEO says lawmakers agreed to allocate $500,000 over the next two years for the campaign Keep ‘Em Safe Texaswhich teaches gun owners the safe and proper storage of firearms, to prevent suicides, homicides and mass shootings like the one five years ago at a Santa Fe, Texas, high school.
As for the main measures, not even the most recent mass shooting in this American state – the massacre at the Allen mall – seems to be enough to shake the Republicans. The shooter killed eight people, including three children, before being shot dead by a police officer.
However, the shooting has moved a bill forward in Austin: House Bill 2744, which would raise the age to purchase semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21, had stalled in a House committee. Just two days after the events in Allen, a deadline was set for it to be approved or rejected. Few expected it to go to the plenary session.
After Uvalde families packed the state capitol, chanting “raise the age,” as legislators made their way to the floor, the House Committee on Community Safety quickly called a meeting and approved the measure by eight votes in favor and five against, with two Republicans in favor. The room, full of families from Uvalde, erupted in applause. Some cried.
“We see so many tragedies with children being shot in schools. This is a modest change we can make to give many people peace of mind and protect children,” Republican Sam Harless, who joined Democrats in pushing the bill, told the Dallas Morning News at the time. “I did not run for this office to take the easy vote,” he added.
Golden stresses that the vote marks an important milestone for Texas gun policy: “It is unprecedented in the capitol as a whole. People were stunned.” “I don’t want to take away from the step that’s been taken,” he says. That victory for gun control advocates, however, was short-lived.
The next day, another critical deadline was missed and a floor vote was not scheduled. Democrats say they will continue to push the measure, but it is unlikely to pass. “We went from euphoria to disappointment with overwhelming speed,” Golden acknowledges. “You have to take steps forward, celebrate them and value their importance.”
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