Teen Texas elementary school shooter was able to buy AR-15 because Lone Star state is one of 44 states where 18-year-olds legally buy a rifle: Six states have raised age to 21 including Florida after Parkland shooting
- Ulvade shooter Salvador Ramos bought two AR-15s days after he turned 18
- In all but six states, 18 is the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic rifles
- Florida raised the age for all long guns to 21 after the 2018 Parkland shooting
- Federal rules bar sales of handguns under 21 and long guns under age 18
PUBLISHED: 04:00 AEST, 26 May 2022 | UPDATED: 04:18 AEST, 26 May 2022
America's gun laws are once again in the spotlight following a devastating school shooting in Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Gunman Salvador Rolando Ramos, 18, purchased two AR-15-style rifles just days after his birthday last week, using one of them to perpetrate Tuesday's massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Texas, like the vast majority of US states, allows 18-year-olds to purchase long guns, including shotguns and rifles.
However a few states have raised that age to 21, most notably in Florida, where the Republican-controlled legislature and governor raised the age limit following the 2018 Parkland shooting, in which a 19-year-old murdered 17 people.
Most states (red) either have a state minimum age of 18 for buying long guns, or default to the federal minimum of 18. Six states (blue) set the age limit at 21 for long guns
Salvador Ramos legally purchased two AR-15 style rifles (right) including the one he used in yesterday's attack after his 18th birthday last week. The gunman also bought more than 300 rounds of ammunition
Not every state has its own age limits on gun sales, but there are federal limits that apply to all federally licensed firearms dealers.
Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, a licensed dealer cannot sell a long gun to anyone under the age of 18. For handguns, the federal age limit is 21.
For unlicensed dealers, which could include a private sale or a gun show purchase, the federal age limit for handguns drops to 18.
While the vast majority of gun murders in the US are committed with handguns, a handful of mass shootings involving semi-auto rifles with high capacity magazines have drawn the focus of gun-control advocates.
In total, six states restrict the sale of semi-auto rifles to those over 21. California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois have a 21 age limit for all long guns.
Vermont sets the limit at 21 for those without a hunting safety certificate. Washington state forbids sales of semi-auto rifles specifically to those under 21.
Several other states ban so-called assault rifles entirely, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
Law enforcement work the scene after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School where 19 people, including 18 children, were killed on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas
Gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, have challenged those laws in court.
After Florida raised the age limit for all guns to 21, the NRA sued, arguing that the rule infringes on Second Amendment rights.
'At 18 years of age, law-abiding citizens in this country are considered adults for almost all purposes and certainly for the purposes of the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights. At 18, citizens are eligible to serve in the military — to fight and die by arms for the country,' the NRA argued in its suit.
'This blanket ban violates the fundamental rights of thousands of responsible, law-abiding Florida citizens,' the group added.
A federal judge struck down the lawsuit last year, but the NRA has continued to appeal and press its case.
Though Texas has a reputation as being lax on gun control, the anti-gun group Everytown ranked the Lone Star state as the 17th worst state in the nation for gun control.
According to the group's 2022 report, Mississippi, Idaho and Montana had the weakest gun control laws in the country.
In this aerial view, law enforcement works on scene at Robb Elementary School where at least 21 people were killed yesterday, including 19 children, on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas
Law enforcement work the scene after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. The suspected gunman, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by police
Nevertheless, Texas did loosen its gun laws with several recent changes, though none appear to have been a factor in Tuesday's shooting.
Starting in September, a new exception allows Texans age 18 to 21 to obtain a handgun license if they are under an emergency protection order by a magistrate.
Though the general age limit for handgun licenses remains 21, the exception is intended to allow those who are under the threat of domestic violence to carry a handgun.
According to the new rule, people who are under threat of family violence, including stalking, or forced prostitution, can submit a request for a gun license.
And under the new Unlicensed Carry Law, as of September, anyone 21 or older who is legally allowed to possess a gun can carry a handgun in most places without any need for a carry permit.
Shooter Salvador Ramos, 18
Texans still need licenses to carry guns in most schools or colleges, and private businesses can also ban guns.
The debate is set to intensify going into the weekend when Houston hosts the NRA's annual convention.
Scheduled to speak at the convention is former president Donald Trump, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and other prominent Republicans.
Senator Chris Murphy, who represents Connecticut, made an emotional call on the Senate floor on Tuesday for lawmakers to pass new gun control laws.
'Nowhere else does that happen except here in the United States of America and it is a choice. It is our choice to let it continue,' he said.
But Cruz quickly pushed back, saying people will use the shooting to attack the right of people under the US Constitution's 2nd Amendment to own guns.
'When there's a crime of this kind, it almost immediately gets politicized,' Cruz said.
Attacking constitutional gun rights 'is not effective in stopping these sort of crimes,' he added.
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Texas is one of 44 US states where 18-year-olds can legally buy a rifle
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