New York passed a bill to ban anyone under 21 from purchasing or possessing a semi-automatic rifle, on Thursday, 2 June. This major change in state law has occurred less than three weeks after an 18-year-old used a semi-automatic rifle and killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, according to a report by National Public Radio (NPR).
Raising the age limit to purchase fast-firing rifles might be a step towards stricter gun control in the country. Younger people would still be able to possess and buy other types of shotguns and rifles. However, they would be unable to buy the kinds of rifles used by 18-year-old gunmen in the mass shootings at Buffalo and at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where Salvador Ramos killed 19 children and two teachers.
Other states that require buyers to be 21-years-old instead of 18 in order to purchase some types of long guns include Florida, Vermont, Illinois, Hawaii, and Washington. A similar legislation has been proposed in Utah.
The passing of the bill that raises the age limit comes as US President Joe Biden appealed to lawmakers to pass "common sense laws to combat the epidemic of gun violence" in an address on Thursday, 2 June.
Biden suggested bringing back the 1994 ban on assault weapons which was instrumental in controlling shootings in the US.
"In the 10 years it was law, mass shootings went down. After Republicans let the law expire in 2004 – and those weapons were allowed to be sold again – mass shootings tripled."Joe Biden, US President.
Battle for Gun Control
Even though the age limit bill is headed towards Governor Kathy Hochul's desk for her signature, the battle for increased gun control across the nation remains to be won.
Apart from raising the legal purchase age to 21, the bill would also mandate anyone purchasing a semi-automatic rifle to get a licence. This is a stipulation only needed for handguns up until now.
It is precisely why many Republicans have opposed the new bill which would inconvenience law-abiding firearms owners. Moreover, Republicans argued that the age limit could be "circumvented by people determined to get weapons."
Legal fights continue with New York's law that limits who can get a handgun licence is a lawsuit in front of the US Supreme Court while California's attempt at a similar change of buying age limit for semi-automatic weapons has been challenged, according to reports by NPR.
The National Rifle Association has challenged Florida's ban on sale of rifles and other firearms to adults under 21 years of age, which was passed after 17 students and staff were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
(With inputs from NPR and AP)