Democratic senators seek to strengthen gun safety laws in Texas


Kara Hawley

Protesters hold up a sign at the March for Our Lives protest on June 11, 2022. The protest was held in reaction to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May.

Madeline Duncan, Senior News Reporter

CW: This story contains mentions of gun violence.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School last May, Democratic Texas state senators are attempting to keep gun control in the conversation by introducing firearm safety legislation despite pushback from some Republicans and limited legislative success. 

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez has introduced over 20 pieces of gun safety legislation this session, and hosted weekly press releases with family members of mass shooting victims as he introduced the legislation in February and March. Among the bills are measures to raise the age to purchase a long gun from 18 to 21, to place patrol officers in public schools and to add more red flag laws in Texas. 

“No one should be able to go into a gun shop at 18 years old, when they can’t buy a beer and they can’t buy a cigarette,” Gutierrez said. “No one should be able to go buy an AR-15 as easily as buying a can of soda.” 

In the Robb Elementary shooting, the 18-year-old shooter purchased the AR-15 he used legally just days before the shooting, according to the Texas Tribune.

So far, few of these bills have left a Senate committee. In the House however, House Speaker Dade Phelan established several special committees at the offset of the session to explore issues related to firearms and the security of Texas youth. 

Gutierrez is also requesting $2 billion in appropriations to go toward school safeguarding to protect schools from intruders. 

“The Texas Education Agency has a white paper specifically asking for $2.1 billion in one-time fixes to our schools,” Gutierrez said. “We have to put serious money into safeguarding our schools, whether it be better locking mechanisms, better technology, better fencing. We have to safeguard our children.”

State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt co-authored Senate Bill 1274, which would raise the minimum age to purchase a long gun from 18 to 21 — the same age you must be to purchase a handgun in the United States. The bill also requires background checks on all private transfers of firearms, with exceptions for transactions between family members and sales to police officers and military members. 

“Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for Texas children,” Eckhardt said in an email. “As elected officials, we have a duty to answer to Texans who overwhelmingly want common sense gun reforms, who want to feel safe again going to worship or school or the grocery store.”

Jackson Paul, co-chairman of the UT chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas, said he sympathizes with victims of gun violence but doesn’t agree that raising minimum age requirements to purchase an assault weapon would benefit public safety.

“The firearm crimes that we see are disproportionately done with handguns,” finance junior Paul said. “So the federal law that distinguishes between handguns and these long guns makes a lot of sense because of the rates of crime committed with handguns versus longer guns.”

Government sophomore Adelynn Segars said requiring background checks for private sales of guns would be a step in the right direction to reduce mass shootings in Texas.

“If we have loopholes for gun shows, you have no idea who you’re handing that gun to, what they’re capable of or what their plans are,” Segars said. “Having extensive background checks can help prevent and weed out people who have bad intentions with their guns.”