Can Texas raise the age for buying AR-15 rifles?

Second Amendment


The claim: “There have been three court rulings since May that have made it clear that it is unconstitutional to ban someone between the ages of 18 and 20 from being able to buy an AR. That came out of the federal court of appeals.” — Gov. Greg Abbott

Abbott was responding to calls from Uvalde community members to raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 to purchase semi-automatic rifles, like the AR-15-like assault-style rifle used to kill 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary. Some states have raised the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Politifact rating: Mostly False. Only one of the cases Abbott cited directly addressed the question of limiting purchases of semi-automatic rifles. Furthermore, the Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in on an age limit.

Discussion:

PolitiFact is a fact-checking project to help you sort out fact from fiction in politics. Truth-O-Meter ratings are determined by a panel of three editors. The burden of proof is on the speaker, and PolitiFact rates statements based on the information known at the time the statement is made.


The “AR” in Abbott’s claim was a reference to the AR-15, a type of semi-automatic weapon. 

Abbott, a former Texas attorney general and Texas Supreme Court justice, added: “So, it is clear that the gun control law that they’re seeking in Uvalde, as much as they may want it, it has already been ruled to be unconstitutional.” 

PolitiFact Texas spoke with experts and found that Abbott spoke broadly on the court rulings he cited, and there has been no Supreme Court ruling addressing the constitutionality of raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon.

Steven Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, said, at most, only one case out of the three Abbott referred to was apparently relevant to his claim, but that ruling was vacated in September.

The California 9th Circuit ruling, now vacated, addressed age limits to purchase semi-automatic weapons, including AR-15s.

The court had struck down the California law, which restricted 18- to 20-year-olds from purchasing semi-automatic rifles, while keeping the law requiring a hunting license for a young adult to purchase a long gun.

However that decision was vacated earlier this month, after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the second step in a two-step legal test developed by the lower courts for gun law cases. This new framework will be used to determine constitutionality in future Second Amendment court cases.

The California case was sent back to U.S. District Court to apply the high court’s new framework to it.

“I think it would be a fair guess to say that the law is still in some jeopardy, but we just don’t know and it’s going to take some time for the case to work its way all the way back up,” Willinger said.

In another case Abbott mentioned, a Texas federal judge ruled in August that the state law prohibiting 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds from legally carrying a handgun violates the U.S. Constitution and cannot be enforced.



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