Austin City Council approves resolution to encourage raising minimum age for purchase of AR-15 type weapons

The resolution orders Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk to ‘explore all options’ to allow the city to restrict the sale of these weapons to people under 21, despite a Texas law prohibiting local governments to define their own restrictions on firearms.

Lawmakers passed the resolution with a 10-1 vote. Council Member MacKenzie Kelly, who opposed it, raised questions about possible legal action by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican , and local businesses, because increasing the gun purchase age for increasing semi-automatic weapons could violate state law.

Local municipalities in Texas do not have the authority to regulate the sale, ownership, transfer, and registration of firearms and ammunition, according to the Texas local government code.
The action comes amid a national debate over gun laws following mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in New York. In these shootings, each teenage suspect allegedly used a legally purchased AR-15 style rifle.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has announced tentative agreement for gun safety legislation to address mental health resources, school safety and access to guns. The framework includes a more thorough review process for people between the ages of 18 and 21 who are going to buy a firearm like an AR-15, but that would not call for an increase in the age required to buy such rifles. .

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said there was a mental health issue that led to gun violence, not a gun issue. At a press conference after the Uvalde shooting, he said: “People who think maybe we can enforce tough gun laws, and we can solve it; Chicago, New York and LA refute this thesis.”

City manager to report findings by July 26

Cronk, who recommends policies and programs to the Austin City Council, must report his findings on the city’s gun restriction options by July 26, the resolution says. His office will conduct a “legal analysis” in conjunction with the Austin Law Department Division to address concerns about the disagreement between the resolution and Texas law, Cronk spokesman Andy Tate said.

Lee Crawford, chief of Austin’s legal department, said at the meeting that a business owner could sue the city arguing that state law would prevail over city law, including including after receiving a misdemeanor citation for their gun sales in Austin. Identifying legal grounds to sue the city over the proposed gun restrictions would be “speculative” because the proposals do not yet have the force of law, he said.

Austin City Council Member MacKenzie Kelly

Kelly said the legislation could jeopardize council resources and encouraged other council members to advocate for changes to the state or federal gun law instead of donating. the green light for city-level restrictions that would violate Texas law.

“I believe that any attempt by Austin to restrict, regulate or obstruct gun sales violates the state’s preemption laws and that violation of the current preemption law risks being prosecuted by the Attorney General , which I believe is an unnecessary waste of taxpayer resources,” she said at the meeting.

Kelly’s opposition was quickly rebuked by other council members, including council member Alison Alter, who sponsored the resolution.

“No one should have to worry about an 18-year-old walking into a school with an AR-15 and shooting at the school, and that’s not some far-fetched scenario,” she said.

Calls grow from police organizations for gun control measures

Austin gun shop owner Joseph McBride said his business only sells firearms to customers 21 and older. But he said federal and state lawmakers should set gun regulations instead of local governments.

“We’re going to have a hodgepodge of, God knows if you’re going to be okay with carrying one or having one in certain cities across the state…and that’s just not the right way to go,” did he declare. .

The legal age to buy a handgun in Austin is already 21, according to Texas law.

Lawmakers in at least one state, New York, recently passed a bill raising the minimum age to 21 to purchase a semi-automatic rifle. Governor Kathy Hochul signed the measure, which was part of a package of 10 gun control bills, earlier this month. Six other states require a minimum age of 21 to purchase long guns like the AR-15.

One of these states is Florida. Shortly after the 2018 Parkland Massacre, the state raised the legal age to purchase rifles and shotguns to 21. The National Rifle Association sued the state for the law change, called the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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