In Texas, students pressured lawmakers to allow a vote on a bill to raise the age limit on semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 with large protests at San Antonio City Hall.
They were joined by members of the San Antonio City Council, including Mayor Ron Nirenberg, according to Texas Public Radio news city hall reporter Joey Palacios.
“The students are demanding HB 2477 be given a vote in the Texas House. The bill would raise age limits on semi-automatic rifle purchases from 18 to 21.”
BREAKING: A large student driven protest against gun violence converged on San Antonio City Hall a few moments ago.
The students are demanding HB 2477 be given a vote in the Texas House. The bill would raise age limits on semi-automatic rifle purchases from 18 to 21. pic.twitter.com/uUvymujklJ
— Joey Palacios – Texas Public Radio (@Joeycules) May 11, 2023
The “Raise the Age Act” was introduced by State Rep. Tracy King of Uvalde and was passed out of the Texas House Select Committee on Community Safety several days ago. Here’s the celebration after that achievement, which involved getting two Republicans to vote for it (essentially a miracle):
We SHOWED UP in Austin and demanded Texas do-nothing lawmakers do SOMETHING. They called an emergency meeting and PASSED a raise the age out of committee. Our work is not done, but there were tears from survivors – including Uvalde families – for this unprecedented vote. pic.twitter.com/vJ8pNAuY2K
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) May 8, 2023
Republican gun policy is hard at work in Texas, where lawmakers have approved more than 100 bills loosening gun restrictions since 2000. Gun related deaths in the state are at a level “not seen since the 1990s.”
Last Saturday, a neo-Nazi white supremacist wearing a patch reading “right-wing death squad” used an AR-15-style rifle to kill eight people and wound seven others at an Allen, Texas mall. That mass shooting is in the tragic shadow of the Uvalde mass shooting one year ago, during which 19 children and 2 teachers were slaughtered.
Kat Vargas, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement, “We seem to be in an endless cycle of gun violence taking the lives of our children and neighbors while our lawmakers do absolutely nothing to prevent it. We do not and should not have to live this way.”
Republican Governor Greg Abbott is clinging to the Republican talking point about the second amendment being sacred and pivoting to mental health as the issue, which of course makes no sense since every country has mental health challenges, but not relentless mass shootings and gun violence as we do.
It’s the guns. It’s also gun culture, as recent studies have shown that looser gun laws correlate with higher levels of crime and violence, even when that violence doesn’t involve a gun. That fact, in and of itself, condemns the reckless gun culture nurtured into a sickness in this country.
Many critics of Abbott accused him of being a hypocrite, saying he cut mental health services in Texas after he redirected mental health money to fund “Operation Lone Star,” which WFAA describes as “an expensive border mission meant to slow illegal immigration.”
However, they note that Texas “immediately replenished” the funds by shifting federal coronavirus aid to the agency. So it’s not accurate to accuse Abbott of cutting these funds.
If you’re side-eyeing self-styled cowboy Texas-can-do-it-alone Abbott for using “federal aid” to repay money he took to fund what will no doubt be a cruel and useless show mission at the border, fair enough. But he did use fed money to fill in the money he used for his show.
“The biggest critique of Texas Republicans would be their continued opposition to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act,” Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones told WFAA, which pointed out that more than 1 million people in Texas would gain access to mental health help with the expansion of Medicaid (an Obamacare program).
So, that’s a lot of talk from Republicans in Texas about mental health, while they hold out as one of the few states left that refuses to expand Medicaid.
One year ago, a San Antonio Police spokesperson expressed concern about an “upward trend in gun violence after second double homicide in one week,” but said it was hard to determine if “constitutional carry” was the “root cause.”
“Constitutional carry,” which had become law less than a year prior to the upward trend in gun violence, is a very misleading label for what is actually reckless endangerment of the public. The “law” allows people who can legally own a gun to carry firearms without a license or training. It is actually weaponized “Unlicensed Carry.”
Even the most staunch Republican NRA members I’ve interviewed in real life acknowledge the need for training on a weapon like a gun. Unlicensed carry is a license to kill. The military trains relentlessly to use weapons that Republicans insist 18 year olds should have, sans any training. This is a patently pro-death stance.
“What this did was allow people without background checks, without training being allowed to carry firearms,” Louis Wichers, vice chair on the board of Texas Gun Sense, told KENS5.
Gun laws have far-reaching impact, as evidenced by new research from the University of Michigan: “(S)tates that prevent domestic violence offenders from having guns reduce the total number of intimate partner homicides, not just homicides with guns”.
When all seems lost in the morass of corruption that’s overtaken U.S. politics and threatens global democracy, young people continue to provide hope that change is still possible.
Showing up to demand change is the first step, without which nothing will happen. Young people who have grown up in the age of school shootings are too familiar with the consequences of the U.S.’s grotesquely obscene lack of gun laws.