Age limit a good start for response to school killings

Former President Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other elected so-called leaders say the answer to protecting innocent students and teachers from attack is to turn schools into fortresses. High perimeter fencing, every entrance door locked but one, metal detectors, cameras, hardened doors to classrooms, armed security guards. Sounds like a prison, not a school for young children to learn, play and enjoy.

And after speakers at last week’s National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston condemned the evil of the Uvalde school shooter who murdered 21 students and teachers in Texas on May 24, they turned to firing up the crowd by blaming “elites,” which I suppose means anyone who disagrees with the NRA; the news media, which I suppose does not include Fox News; Democrats, which I suppose they had to remind people because it’s an election year; and “communist Marxists,” which I suppose makes no sense but the speakers thought it sounded good.

“The elites who dominate our culture tell us that firearms lie at the root of the problem,” Cruz said. “It’s far easier to slander one’s political adversaries and to demand that responsible citizens forfeit their constitutional rights than it is to examine the cultural sickness.”

The politically ambitious senator has it wrong. The debate after the Texas shooting is not about taking away guns, violating constitutional rights or fighting communism. It’s about doing something to reduce the frequency of deadly attacks in the nation’s schools. But Trump, Cruz and others would rather turn it into an us-versus-them debate to score points on the political bullseye with their supporters.

As Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors basketball team, said the evening of the shooting: “When are we going to do something? … I am so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I am so tired … of the moments of silence. Enough!”

He concluded: “We can’t get numb to this. We can’t sit here and just read about it and go, well, let’s go have a moment of silence. … It’s pathetic.”

He’s right. A good place to start is the age limit for buying semi-automatic weapons and giving authorities more time to run background checks on gun buyers. Not take away guns, not violate anyone’s rights, just try to reduce the frequency of student deaths.

As it is, federal law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from buying cigarettes; the minimum age in most states for consuming alcohol is 21; and for states that allow recreational marijuana, there, too, the minimum age is 21. The federal minimum age to buy a handgun is 21.

Yet in Texas, and most other states, teenagers can buy semi-automatic rifles and unlimited rounds of ammunition. Just as a Texas teen did the day after his 18th birthday. He bought a second rifle the next day, purchased 375 bullets, and then four days later murdered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a community with a population not much bigger than Ketchikan.

This underage problem goes back years.

The two kids who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 were 17 and 18 years old.

A 20-year-old used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

A 15-year-old killed four kids at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington state in 2014.

A 17-year-old murdered 10 at a high school 30 miles outside Houston in 2018.

A 19-year-old, using a semi-automatic rifle, killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

If Congress could start by raising the age to 21 for semiautomatic rifles, the same as handguns, maybe the nation could prevent another moment of silence for dead students.


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