Gun control activists protest Abbott, demand gun ban on under-21s

Gun control activists protest Abbott, demand gun ban on under-21s
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The gun control group March for Our Lives organized a protest outside of the governor’s mansion in Austin, Texas this weekend in an attempt to put Greg Abbott on the defensive over his response to the shootings at Robb Elementary in Uvalde back in May; a response that so far has not included any new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.

Several family members of the victims of that targeted attack took part in the protest, calling on the governor to bring lawmakers back to the state capitol for a special session and demanding that the GOP-led legislature institute a ban on the sale of so-called assault weapons to adults under the age of 21.

The demonstrators demanded action from the governor and vowed that – if he continues to ignore them – they will make their voices heard at the ballot box instead.

When asked if the governor supports raising the minimum age, his office instead pointed the HuffPost reporter to his efforts around school safety and mental health.

“As Governor Abbott has said from day one, all options remain on the table as he continues working with state and local leaders to prevent future tragedies and deploy all available resources to support the Uvalde community as they heal,” the spokesperson said.

“More announcements are expected in the coming days and weeks as the legislature deliberates proposed solutions.”

All options may be on the table as far as the governor is concerned, but imposing a ban on the sale of modern sporting rifles to adults under the age of 21 would be extremely problematic from a legal standpoint, and would likely pose a political challenge for Abbott as well. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke has been doing everything he can to make gun control a campaign issue in his race against Abbott, but polls have consistently shown the Republican incumbent with a lead of at least five points. If Abbott were to embrace an age-based gun ban between now and November, it would likely dampen enthusiasm among a good chunk of his base… not to mention prompt a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a ban.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that a federal judge in Texas ruled that the state’s ban on adults under-21 lawfully carrying a concealed firearm for self-defense is unconstitutional; a decision that could also have major implications on the federal ban on handgun sales to under-21s. If a 20-year old has the right to keep and bear arms, it’s hard to argue that they should still be barred from purchasing the most commonly-sold arms in the country; whether we’re talking about sem-automatic handguns or modern sporting rifles.

Even the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that California’s ban on the sale of so-called assault weapons to under-21s is a violation of their Second Amendment rights; a decision, by the way, that was issued before the Supreme Court’s groundbreaking opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen overturning New York’s “may issue” carry laws and spelling out the “text, history, and tradition” test that lower courts must use to determine whether or not a particular gun control law is compatible with the Constitution.

When it comes to gun bans for young adults, there really is no historical analogue to point to. And when it comes to addressing public safety, gun bans aren’t the way to go in the first place. There were all kinds of failures that led to the murder of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde; from the fact that the killer made repeated threats and displayed disturbing (and criminal) behavior without law enforcement ever being notified to the inexplicable decision by law enforcement on the ground to wait more than hour before engaging the shooter in the classroom where he had holed up. Blocking millions of young adults from accessing their constitutionally-protected rights isn’t just a legal overreach. It takes us further away from the strategies and tactics that are most effective at preventing these attacks from ever happening in the first place.