Raise Texas’ minimum age to purchase assault-style rifles

Michael Zhang, Associate Editor

On May 17th, just days after his 18th birthday, the Uvalde gunman bought two AR-style rifles. These weapons killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, resulting in the deadliest shooting at a Texas public school. Families of the Uvalde victims and survivors both wanted justice and for something – anything –  to be changed within the Texas gun control policy.

Uvalde isn’t the only shooting tragedy that has taken place in Texas. In the last 13 years, Texas has suffered eight separate mass shootings. 

In response to the number of shootings throughout the state, the Abbott administration needs to increase the minimum age to purchase assault-style rifles from 18 to 21.

Campus director of University Democrats, James Hallamek, expressed his disapproval of Abbott’s stance.

“I think that assault weapons are weapons of war. I don’t think that they serve a practical self defense or hunting use…I don’t think they have a place here in regular society.” Hallamek said. “I do think that moving the age to buy to 21 is a good idea. I think a lot of these (mass) shooters … are young people that don’t have a certain level of maturity.”

Hallamek has a point. The Uvalde shooter was only 18 when he purchased his weapons, and a study by the Journal of Injury Prevention found that 17% of shooters would have been unable to buy a gun if their state had a law that prohibited gun possession by anyone under 21. 

Political scientist and government professor at Austin Community College, Roy Casagranda, also called into question the lack of legislative action from Governor Abbott. 

“He could stand up and he could get in front of a mic and say this is what I believe, and I don’t care what the law is, the law needs to be changed, and we need to think about changing the age at which you can own an assault rifle,” Casagranda said. 

Despite the obstacles Abbott may face and his claims that the law would be unconstitutional, experts say increasing the age to purchase an assault rifle is still possible.

In response to media inquiry, the Abbott administration described an alternative root to the problem of gun violence.

“This past month, a Texas federal court — following the new Supreme Court standard — struck down a law that restricted gun rights for adults 18-21. Governor Abbott continues to work on solutions focused on the root of the problem: mental health,” the Office of the Governor said in an emailed statement. 

The Texas federal court in Fort Worth labeled the law that prohibited the carrying of firearms by 18 to 20-year-olds a violation of the Second Amendment. 

“As long as he (Abbott) has the backing of the legislature … he could sign it into law, he could make the age limit 21,” Casgranda said. “If you get shot down by that federal judge in Fort Worth, they could appeal it and see if they could get a different ruling at a different level.”

As Casagranda has described, increasing the minimum age requirement is possible, but with the current political climate, it would be difficult. Regardless of the obstacles that stand in the way, all those struck by tragedy from these shootings deserve justice and for an effort toward better gun control policies to be made on their behalf. Abbott must take a stand for increasing the minimum age to purchase an assault-style rifle.

While mental health is a significant factor behind these shootings, at the end of the day, the result of this violence is not solely from a lack of mental health resources. These multifaceted issues require taking a multi-pronged approach that involves tackling a variety of underlying issues, such as mental health, but also gun control and even crime control. 

Governor Abbott, protect our state in a way that matters. Parents of Uvalde and future parents affected by tragedies that are sure to occur deserve better than political negligence and shallow activism. Texas needs actionable, implementable change. 

Zhang is a sociology sophomore from Katy, Texas.