We know that creating stronger vetting requirements to purchase semi-automatic rifles like AR-15s is a necessary step for making Texas safer. We cannot ignore the fact that nearly every mass shooting is carried out with a semi-automatic rifle, and many are perpetrated by people under the age of 21. Indeed, though the shooter in the Uvalde tragedy was 18, he legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle. As we have seen in shootings in Sutherland Springs, El Paso, and Midland-Odessa, semi-automatic rifles often make mass shootings deadlier incidents. Currently, there is no law preventing someone under 21 from committing similar mass shootings with a semi-automatic rifle.
Evidence supports raising the age of purchase for semi-automatic weapons. Consider the following:
A total of 48 people were killed in the attacks in Uvalde, TX (2022), Buffalo, NY (2022), and Parkland, FL (2018). In each case, the shooters legally purchased guns before they turned 21.
Guns are now the leading cause of death for American youth, killing more children annually than cancer.
Youth suicide with firearms is on the rise in Texas: 2020 was the first year in which Texas youth used a firearm to complete suicide more than 50% of the time.
Although 12- to 24-year-olds make up less than a fifth of the population, they commit just under half of all firearm homicides, according to data from the Department of Justice.
Based on the evidence above, we recommend raising the age of purchase for semi-automatic rifles in Texas to 21, a measure that 80% of Texas voters support. Multiple studies have found that raising the minimum purchase age can help reduce suicides, the most common form of gun deaths. Additionally, a study in the journal Injury Prevention of inmates in prison for crimes committed with firearms found that 17% would have been unable to buy a gun if their state had a law that prohibited possession by anyone under 21.
In addition, we suggest exploring a stronger vetting process for the purchase of AR-15-type firearms through evaluation of the purchaser’s history, background, and firearm proficiency.
We stand with Uvalde in urging legislators to create a stronger vetting process to purchase a semi-automatic rifle. At a minimum, the age requirement to purchase a firearm like an AR-15 should be raised to 21 to match Texas’ handgun laws. This measure could have prevented the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde.
Texas Gun Sense Supports the following bills filed in the 88th Legislative Session that support raising the age to purchase semi-automatic weapons: