As states begin to reopen, many are excited at reaching a sense of normalcy. However, after a year of quarantine, we have seemed to forget that mass shootings, unfortunately, are typical in the U.S. Safety measures such as quarantining and social distancing have made many feel isolated and lonely, increasing their stress and anxiety. According to NPR, “We’re just 18 weeks into 2021, and already the U.S. has experienced 194 mass shootings. That averages out to about 10 a week.” In the span of two months, there were shootings at the Atlanta Spa, the Colorado Grocery Store, Colorado Springs, and the most recent one at the San Jose rail yard with ten killed. Even though California has the strictest gun laws in the U.S., how does this compare to other states?
First, under the Gun Control Act, shotguns and rifles, and ammunition for them may be sold only to individuals 18 years of age or older. Firearms other than shotguns and rifles, and all ammunition may be sold only to individuals 21 years of age or older. Since the act serves as the minimum requirement, states can increase the age to purchase guns. California prohibits the sale of handguns to anyone under age 21, besides exemptions, and from loaning or transferring firearms to those under 18. Firearms purchases and transfers are made through a California licensed dealer under the Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) process. Prior to the sale of a firearm, licensed firearm dealers, but not private sellers, are required to perform a background check by using state and federal records OR use the FBI background check through the National Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, state files may not be included in this database and the system is missing millions of records on criminal convictions and mental illness diagnoses, as seen with Dylann Roof in the 2017 shooting. Buyers present a California Driver’s License or ID card and are required to have a Handgun Safety Certificate and pass a safety demonstration with their recently purchased handgun. Finally, there is a ten-day waiting period between purchasing a gun and receiving the gun. Californians are also limited to purchasing no more than one handgun in a 30-day period. There is a lifetime from purchasing firearms for those with violent felonies and domestic violence misdemeanors, and those involuntarily placed into a mental health treatment twice in the same year. There is a temporary ban for those with restraining orders (State of California Department of Justice). Now, take Texas. One must be 18 to buy a rifle and at least 21 years of age to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer. The state also prohibits felons and people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from possessing firearms but there are many gaps. One being that this does not apply to people convicted of assaults against a dating partner unless the defendant has married or lived with the victim. While federal law requires licensed dealers to conduct a background check through the NICS, in Texas, if the firearm purchaser already has a license to carry a concealed handgun, background checks are not required (Texas Tribune). After the 2019 El Paso shooting that took 23 lives, Governor Greg Abott assured he would “take appropriate action to stop future tragedies.” However, Gov. Abott seems to have forgotten his promise as we see Texas to allow unlicensed carrying of guns, which means that the background check and training are not required. Despite the public outcry from law enforcement groups, Abbott said he will sign the bill. Supporters of the bill explain it would allow Texans “to better defend themselves in public while abolishing unnecessary impediments to the constitutional right to bear arms,” (Texas Tribune) This begs the question of what will it take for politicians and lawmakers to take necessary actions against gun violence. As states reopen and start to relax their gun laws, it is likely that Americans will continue to lose their loved ones.