Texas shooting: The debate around gun control laws in US and Joe Biden’s stand on them
Guns and gun laws are a polarising issue in the United States (US).
Washington, May 25: The debate around the freedom of US citizens to bear and use arms is likely to get even more heated after the horrific shooting of the Uvalde school in Texas.
Nineteen children and two adults were killed after the attack, while the gunman named as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was shot dead by law enforcement. Investigators say the suspect was armed with a handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity magazines.
This is the deadliest attack since the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, according to CNN.
The incidents have reignited the debate on gun laws in the US, a country with one of the most lax controls on gun ownership in the world.
The Debate around Gun Control
The debate around gun control revolves around factors like the interpretation of the Second Amendment, the connection of gun ownership with crime, and the right to self-defence, among others.
Opponents, however, say that gun control laws would reduce gun-related crime.
Gun laws in Texas
Gun laws in Texas regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the U.S. state of Texas.
Since September 1, 2021, a permit is not required for a person 21 and over to carry a handgun either openly or concealed in most places in Texas. Prior to this date, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a License to Carry a Handgun to an eligible person on a shall issue basis.
Texas has state preemption of gun laws, so local governments can not further restrict or regulate the possession or use of firearms. Texas does not restrict NFA weapons that are legally possessed under federal law. The state does not require background checks for private sales of firearms.
Black powder pistols and long arms are not considered to be firearms in the state of Texas and may be freely carried either open or concealed without permit or prejudice.
Gun Control Act of 1968
This Legislation regulated interstate and foreign commerce in firearms, including importation, "prohibited persons", and licensing provisions.
Is there a minimum age?
The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), which regulates firearms at the federal level, requires that citizens and legal residents must be at least 18 years of age to purchase shotguns or rifles and ammunition. All other firearms - handguns, for example - can only be sold to people 21 and older.
State or local officials may implement higher age restrictions but are not allowed to lower the federal minimum.
Who's restricted from purchasing or possessing firearms?
Fugitives, people deemed a danger to society and patients involuntarily committed to mental institutions are among those who may not purchase firearms. People with prior felony convictions that include a prison sentence exceeding one year, or misdemeanors carrying sentences of more than two years, are also prohibited from purchasing firearms.
Federal law also blocks the sale of guns to people who have been found guilty of unlawfully possessing or using controlled substances within the past year. This includes marijuana, which, though legalized in many US states, remains illegal under federal law.
Other restrictions apply to people who have been issued restraining orders by courts to prevent harassment, stalking or threatening; people who have renounced their citizenship; dishonorably discharged military personnel; unauthorized migrants; and people temporarily visiting the US on nonimmigrant visas, for example as tourists.
Assassinations and Gun Control
After the assassinations of President John Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Gun Control Act is passed and imposes stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry, establishes new categories of firearms offenses, and prohibits the sale of firearms and ammunition to felons and certain other prohibited persons. It also imposes the first Federal jurisdiction over "destructive devices," including bombs, mines, grenades and other similar devices. Congress reorganizes ATU into the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division (ATTD) and delegates to them the enforcement of the Gun Control Act.
What is Biden's take on gun laws?
US President Joe Biden was briefed on the shooting during his return flight from Japan where he attended the Quad Summit. In a prime-time address on Tuesday, a visibly emotional Biden asked what it would take to convince fellow lawmakers that "it's time to act."
President Biden again tried to comfort a nation grieving after a mass shooting, urging action to counter powerful gunmakers and repeatedly questioning why the country he leads lacks "the backbone" to stem the bloodshed. "How many scores of little children who witnessed what happened - seen their friends die as if they're on a battlefield, for god's sake," said Biden.
"To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There's a hollowness in your chest." Turning to the issue of gun control legislation, Biden implored lawmakers to "turn this pain into action" as he ticked through some of the mass shootings since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when he was vice president.
"I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don't tell me we can't have an impact on this carnage," he said, asking: "Why do we keep letting this happen?" "Where in God's name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbies?" he said.
Biden has ordered the US flag to be flown at half-mast until sunset on Saturday, May 28, in memory of those killed in Texas.
The US flag across all public buildings, grounds, military posts, naval stations, naval vessels, embassies, consular offices and military facilities will be in half-mast.