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Buffalo Issue: Should Teens Be Able to Buy Semi-Automatic Guns?

The mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., has renewed the debate over the minimum age for legally purchasing what President Biden and others "weapons of war." Police say the 18-year-old shooter used a semi-automatic rifle called the Bushmaster XM-15, which he bought legally at a licensed gun store, after passing a background check. Investigators say he modified the rifle in ways that would make it illegal under New York's definition of "assault weapons." New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to establish a state law enforcement unit focused on domestic terrorism, NPR reports. Should an 18-year-old be allowed to buy a semi-automatic rifle?

California, Florida and Washington state have responded to the string of mass shootings by young men by raising the minimum age to buy certain kinds of rifles, such as the Bushmaster. Gun rights groups have sued, calling this a violation of young adults' Second Amendment rights. Last week, a panel of three federal judges in California agreed, overturning the higher minimum age approved by the state last year. "There's a big fight brewing over these restrictions on guns for 18, 19, and 20-year-olds because the courts are in the midst of a great expansion of Second Amendment gun rights," says Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor. The author of the California law, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, hopes the state attorney general appeals the federal ruling. "It makes sense to appeal. This is a fight worth fighting, and again, look at what happened in Buffalo," he says. "You have to be 25 to rent a car. You have to be 21 to drink. Why would we put a semi-automatic rifle in the hands of a teenager? To people in that age group who own guns, this feels like discrimination. "I would point out that drinking and driving a car aren't constitutionally protected," says Evan Jones, a gun enthusiast in Texas who just turned 22.


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