‘We’re here to change things that need to be changed’: Community Safety vice chair weighs in on success of committee

The House Select Committee on Community Safety was created on February 23, 2023

2023 marked a first for the Texas Legislature -- the creation of the House Select Committee on Community Safety.

The bipartisan committee heard dozens of bills on firearms, including one bill aimed at raising the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles.

“The speaker chose me to be a part of this and then be the vice chair for it. So I’m appreciative of it,” said state Rep. Jarvis Johnson of Houston.

Johnson said he didn’t ask to serve on the Community Safety committee, but in the end, he calls the assignment a blessing.

“For the most part, we were dealing with a lot of guns and a lot of gun issues, and I wanted to bring a different perspective,” Johnson said.

House Speaker Dade Phelan created the committee in February. As a whole, it oversees bills related to the possession, use, sale, and transfer of firearms and ammunition.

In total, the committee heard 139 bills over several weeks.

“I think it’s important that bills should be heard. And I also believe that bills should be not only heard but voted on, whether it’s going to be voted up or voted down. And then, if you can get it to the House floor, then get it to the House floor. But this is why we’re here,” Johnson said.

In total, 31 bills moved out of committee, and 108 failed to progress.

Regardless of those numbers, Johnson believes the committee succeeded because it heard every bill presented.

“In the regard of what success should look like for me as a legislator, there were a few bills that I thought should have made it out and made it to the floor a lot quicker, i.e., Raise the age,” he said.

That bill made it out of committee on the last day, but it still failed to make it to the House floor for a public hearing or a vote.

Johnson believes that the number of bills is not the issue. He says it’s the speed at which elected leaders move.

“It’s a matter of how you get them in and how you get them out. We can be efficient. I don’t think we’re efficient with our time,” Johnson said.

KSAT 12 News emailed committee chair state Rep. Ryan Guillen for a comment on this story, but those emails have not been answered.

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About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Valerie Gomez is lead video editor and graphic artist for KSAT Explains. She began her career in 2014 and has been with KSAT since 2017. She helped create KSAT’s first digital-only newscast in 2018, and her work on KSAT Explains and various specials have earned her a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media and multiple Emmy nominations.