Senate committee won’t recommend raising gun purchase age in school safety report
AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — The Texas Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans released its policy recommendations to the legislature Wednesday, detailing sweeping measures relating to school security, mental health, and police training while stopping short of new recommendations directly related to firearms.
“The committee submits this report with utmost respect for the victims and acknowledgement that more must be done to ensure the safety of Texas school children,” the committee wrote. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick formed the committee of seven Republicans and three Democrats to provide policy recommendations in the wake of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde.
The sole recommendation directly relating to firearm safety proposes a state law to mirror the federal government’s ban on “straw purchasing.” That refers to the illegal practice of a third-party selling a firearm to an individual who is otherwise banned from legally purchasing one.
The committee acknowledges that straw purchasing is already illegal under federal law, but worries “the federal government’s inconsistent enforcement… leaves many of these crimes unaddressed.”
The report refers to testimony from the Texas Police Chiefs’ Association that claims the federal government only prosecutes 2% of straw purchases.
“By simply mirroring the Federal law against straw purchases in the Texas Penal Code, the Legislature could provide an important tool to law enforcement to prevent illegal gun trafficking in the State and also potentially avert some of the future mass violence events,” the report wrote.
The chief request from Uvalde families who lost loved ones was addressed, but declined.
Senators acknowledged the calls to raise the purchase age of firearms to 21. They highlighted testimony from the U.S. Secret Service that stressed school shooters are almost always between 12 and 19 years old. “However, there remains a strong lack of consensus of the Committee as to this idea,” they wrote.
The attacker in Robb Elementary legally purchased two assault rifles as soon as he turned 18.
Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) said he strongly supports the proposal to outlaw straw purchases in state law, but he denounced the committee’s refusal to entertain further purchase restrictions.
“We as a legislature must at least hear and consider the voice of the people with regard to firearms, even if we as a legislature go a different direction than the people’s wishes,” he wrote in a letter following the report.
Sen. West cited polling that showed 73% of Texas voters support raising the minimum legal age to buy any gun to 21.
Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) refuted calls to raise the purchase age.
When a citizen turns 18 years old, they are defined by the United States Constitution and seen by society as an adult, reaching the age of majority,” he wrote in a letter following the report. “My concern is that once the Legislature begins changing the parameters of how and when a citizen may utilize their 2nd Amendment rights, upon what other rights can we infringe in the same way?”