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In surprise move, Texas lawmakers advance gun-control bill to raise age to buy assault-style weapons

Texas state lawmakers on Monday moved forward with a gun control bill in a surprise move that came just hours after families of mass shooting victims had begged them to take action in the wake of the rampage Saturday at a mall in Allen that left eight dead. 

State House lawmakers on Monday voted a bill out of committee that would raise the legal age to buy an assault-style weapon to 21, as well as prohibit firearm sales to those who are intoxicated or who have a protective order against them. Two Republicans joined all the Democrats on the committee to support the bill in an 8-5 vote. Families from Uvalde, who have fiercely advocated for the bill, burst into applause after the vote. 

Monday marked the last day the measure could be advanced out of the committee for a floor vote before the legislative session ends on May 29. 

Ahead of the vote Monday, the families from Uvalde and Sutherland Springs — the site of a horrific church shooting in 2017 — pleaded with lawmakers to bring the legislation to the floor. 

Nikki Cross, whose child Uziyah died in Uvalde, said she has come to the Legislature almost every Tuesday and Thursday since the session began in January. She directly addressed Republican state Rep. Ryan Guillen, who is the chair of the select committee on community safety.

"I don't come here and ask you to bring my child back," Cross said. "So, one small and very simple act — can we just raise the age limit to purchase assault-style weapons from 18 to 21?" 

Mall Shooting Texas
Protesters gather at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, Monday, May 8, 2023, to call for tighter regulations on gun sales. A gunman killed several people at a Dallas-area mall Saturday. Eric Gay / AP

Even after Monday's surprise move, the bill still faces an uphill climb, and the clock is ticking for any legislation to be passed. 

Democrats likely lack the support to pass the bill on the state House floor, and even if it were to pass, it would still have to get through the Republican-led state Senate and be signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has indicated he opposes the gun legislation. Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Abbott said, "We are working to address the anger and violence by going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it." 

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde and who led Monday's press conference, has introduced several bills in the state Senate, but none has received a vote. 

It is not clear whether the proposed measures, had they been in effect, would have had any impact on the gunman in Allen, since authorities say he was in his 30s. More details about his background are not publicly available yet. Texas has a loophole that allows law enforcement and prosecutors to withhold the public records in investigations in which there is no conviction. While this could protect information on someone who is not convicted of a crime, it is often known as the "dead suspect loophole," since it allows for information to be withheld if the suspect is dead, even when the suspect is killed by law enforcement or by a self-inflicted wound. 

The assailant who killed 19 children and two teachers at Uvalde Elementary School purchased his weapon at the age of 18. 

"This whole state has been dealing with Uvalde tragedy for a year now and we still don't know the fully happened in Uvalde," Gutierrez said Monday. "What we've seen has come through leaks, has come through, you know, information that the journalistic world has gotten its hands on." 

A law enforcement source told CBS News on Sunday that an assault-style weapon was used in the Allen mall shooting, and the White House said in a statement that the weapon was an AR-15. 

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