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Texas House panel advances bill to raise age to buy semi-automatic rifles

The Democratic bill, which would raise the minimum purchasing age from 18 to 21 for certain firearms, got support from two Republicans on the committee.
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A House committee in Texas advanced a measure Monday that would raise the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles in an unexpected shift after nine people died in a shooting at a Dallas-area outlet mall over the weekend.

The Select Committee on Community Safety approved the measure on an 8-5 vote, with two Republicans backing the Democratic bill. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Tracy King, who represents Uvalde, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school last May.

Under the bill’s provisions, the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine and with a caliber greater than .22 would be raised from 18 to 21.

King and Reps. Sam Harless and Justin Holland, the two Republicans who backed the legislation, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday night.

Several states, mostly Democratic-led, have raised the minimum purchasing age for semi-automatic rifles in recent years.

Monday's vote was held two days after suspected gunman Mauricio Garcia, 33, killed eight people, including a 3-year-old boy and his parents, before he was killed by a police officer, authorities said.

The measure still faces long odds of making it through the House, where Republicans hold an 86-64 advantage over Democrats. Republicans also control the Senate, 19-12, and the Governor's Mansion.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

Abbott, who was recently criticized for calling victims in an earlier shooting “illegal immigrants,” said in a Fox News interview after the mall shooting that Texas was focused on addressing the “root cause” by targeting mental health.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of anger and violence that’s taking place in America,” Abbott said. “People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”