Uvalde families back at Texas Capitol as gun bills languish

Apr 18, 2023, 3:05 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — For the first time since the Uvalde school shooting, Texas Republican lawmakers on Tuesday allowed proposals for stricter gun laws to get a hearing in the state Capitol — where any new restrictions have little chance of passing.

Nearly a year after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and GOP leaders have not softened their opposition to tougher gun laws in Texas. The anniversary of the shooting is May 24.

Next month, the Texas Legislature is scheduled to adjourn after a session in which dozens of proposals filed by Democrats to tighten gun laws have languished, including bills that would raise the age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21 and add reporting requirements during the sale of multiple firearms.

That made Tuesday’s hearing the first and potentially only chance for some Uvalde families to directly plead their case, even though they know the proposals are unlikely to advance.

“We have been here for the fight, we are not going away,” said Brett Cross, whose 10-year-old nephew, Uziyah, was among the children killed in the attack. “They need to know that it is a lot easier for them from their position than it is having to fight when your children are dead.”

The hearing in Texas comes weeks after a gunman carrying a rifle opened fire in a private elementary school in Tennessee, killing three children and three adults.

In response, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed an executive order last week strengthening background checks for gun purchases. Lee has also urged the GOP-controlled statehouse to pass legislation that would remove firearms from people who could be a threat to themselves or others.

For years in Texas, Republicans have waved aside efforts to tighten gun laws after mass shootings, and even expanded gun rights after the 2019 attack on a Walmart in El Paso.

After the Uvalde shooting, Abbott told victims’ families he would not support their calls for gun safety legislation, and he suggested that raising the age to own an assault weapon would be unconstitutional. Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, later said proposals to raise the minimum required age for certain firearms and other gun measures did not have the votes to pass.

Republicans have instead focused on additional mental health services in Texas and increasing school security.

Still, family and friends of Uvalde victims have returned to the Texas Capitol on multiple occasions to protest and meet with lawmakers. They have also called for more police accountability after hundreds of law enforcement officers on the scene waited more than an hour to breach the fourth-grade classroom and confront the shooter.

“It is a really tough thing to pass gun safety laws in Texas,” said Democrat state Rep. Vikki Goodwin, a sponsor of some of the restrictions. “But I think we can’t just throw up our hands and say it is not going to pass.”

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Uvalde families back at Texas Capitol as gun bills languish