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Will it help fight gun violence?

Payton Gendron and Salvador Rolando Ramos, the suspects in the Buffalo and Ulvade High School shootings, were both 18 when they purchased the assault weapons used in the attacks. Experts say more states and the federal government need to pass laws raising the gun purchase age to 21

As America reels from a series of shootings, including mass shootings in Texas and New York, President Joe Biden on Thursday demanded that lawmakers take action against gun violence.

Biden’s 17-minute speech, his latest call for tougher gun laws, came with 56 lit candles arranged along a long hallway behind him to represent US states and territories suffering from gun violence. .

“How much more carnage are we willing to accept? the president asked in the speech, which he delivered angrily in his voice, sometimes approaching a whisper.

“We can no longer disappoint the American people,” he said, condemning the refusal of a majority of Republican senators to support tougher laws as “unconscionable.”

While Biden has called for a ban on assault weapons, he said lawmakers should at a minimum raise the age at which assault weapons can be purchased from 18 to 21. the fields.”

Let’s see what the experts are saying and why raising the minimum age won’t be easy:

Buffalo and Ulvade High School shooting suspects Payton Gendron and Salvador Rolando Ramos were both just 18 when they purchased the assault weapons used in the attacks.

Both were too young to buy alcohol or cigarettes legally, but old enough to arm themselves with assault weapons. In Ramos’ case, he bought the assault rifles and ammunition as soon as he turned 18 – on his birthday.

Going back a little further, the shooter in the Parkland shooting was 19 and the Sandy Hook shooter was 20.

In such cases, increasing age would have prevented them from getting the guns, some argue.

“The group of 18-20 year olds among the most at risk of committing violence with firearms”

Joshua Horwitz, JD, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions noted that research shows that the 18 to 20 age group is among the most at risk for committing gun violence.

“Yet in most states the ability to buy these deadly weapons is less restricted than the ability to buy beer. This is a clear example of how weaknesses in gun laws continue to threaten communities across the country.More states and the federal government must pass laws restricting guns to people 21 or older.

He is right. Only six states in America, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont, and Washington State, have a minimum age of 21 for “long guns.”

Most of those states passed the laws after the 2019 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

Meanwhile, the age to buy handguns from federally licensed gun dealers is set at 21 nationwide.

AR-15 rifles also deal massive damage to human bodies and are deadlier than handguns, with the ability to fire 45 rounds per minute, or 400 with a bump stock.

During the recent high school shooting, a sheriff said CNN the police did not enter the school to confront the shooter for fear of “being shot”.

Horwitz warned that these kinds of tragic events will continue until “meaningful, comprehensive and evidence-based policies” are adopted to stop them.

Kelly Drane, research director at Giffords Law Center, a gun advocacy group, agreed, telling Fast Company: “We know that 18-20 year olds are at high risk of using guns. to hurt other people. They are disproportionately represented among the perpetrators of firearm homicides in our country.

Although school safety researchers support raising age limits, saying 18 is too young to buy a gun and teenage brains are just too impulsive, it’s not that simple. .

A 2019 Secret Service report found that in half of the school shootings they studied, the weapon used was either easily accessible in the home or significantly unsecured.

Politics as usual

And despite Biden’s pleas, action is unlikely as Republican lawmakers have largely resisted tougher gun laws.

The political challenge of legislating in a 50-50 Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to pass, means broader reforms are unrealistic.

Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, told reporters that senators were trying to “target the problem” – which he said was “mental illness and school safety” rather than gun availability.

House Democrats are nonetheless set to pass a much broader but largely symbolic ‘Protecting Our Children Act’, which calls for raising the age of purchase of semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21. and to ban high-capacity magazines.

The package will likely make it through the Democratic-led House next week before dying amid Republican opposition in the Senate.

With regulation being so difficult at the federal level, an effort is also underway among state legislatures to push for stricter gun laws.

California lawmakers advanced a gun control package in the wake of the Uvalde shooting that included proposals to open gun manufacturers to civil liability in certain cases.

The proposals echo action by lawmakers in New York state, while a purchase permit bill is being considered by the Delaware legislature and pro-rights Texas firearms, seeks to “make legislative recommendations” in response to the Uvalde shooting.

Then there are the legal issues.

Legal challenges

Just this month, judges appointed by Donald Trump ruled that raising the age of gun ownership in California was unconstitutional. The judges cited colonial militias as the reason: “America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” one wrote.

Campaigners for greater restrictions also fear a setback at the federal level as the Supreme Court is set to issue its first major opinion on the Second Amendment in more than a decade.

Judges are expected to rule in the coming weeks on a dispute over New York State’s strict limits on the concealed carry of handguns outside the home.

A narrow view could affect just a few states with similar laws, but activists fear the conservative majority will issue a broader ruling that will pave the way for constitutional challenges to gun safety laws across the country.

With contributions from agencies

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