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Governor says raising rifle purchasing age to 21 would be unconstitutional

Citing three recent court rulings, Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday poured cold water on Uvalde residents' key proposal meant to curb mass shootings.

SAN ANTONIO — Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday denied Uvalde residents' plea to raise the purchasing age for semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21.

People related to children who died in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary have repeatedly asked Abbott to call a special session so lawmakers could debate the proposal. 

"It's clear that the gun control law they are seeking in Uvalde, as much as they may want it, has already been ruled to be unconstitutional," Abbott said, citing three recent court rulings related to gun laws. 

In May, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out out a California law that would've barred adults younger than 21 from buying semi-automatic, centerfire rifles. 

The California attorney general's office says it's reviewing the ruling. State attorneys could appeal the decision. 

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a century-old New York law which required citizens to demonstrate need in order to carry a handgun outside the home. 

The high court's ruling did not address age restrictions, but dramatically changed the way judges will measure gun laws' constitutionality. The decision represented a significant win for gun rights organizations, perhaps signaling justices' appetite for loosening existing policies.

In August, U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman ruled it is unconstitutional for Texas to prohibit adults younger than 21 from purchasing a handgun. The decision did not have an immediate affect. 

Pittman stayed the ruling, expecting an appeal. 

Uvalde's city council, school board, and county commissioners each formally asked Abbott to call a special session to raise the purchasing age for semi-automatic rifles. 

In response, Abbott's office told KENS 5 "all options are on the table." The governor's Wednesday remarks represent a clear departure from that stance, albeit unsurprising. 

Abbott would not back raising the purchasing age during a May 25 press conference in Uvalde. 

“The ability of an 18-year-old to buy a long gun has been in place in the state of Texas for more than 60 years,” he said. “Over the course of that 60 years, we have not had episodes likes this.”

He said he doesn’t know why mass shootings have seemingly become more prevalent, but argued that communities’ collective mental health has suffered in that time period.

"Don't sit there and act like you're for the people, that you're for the parents, that you're for the children," said Brett Cross, whose son died in the shooting at Robb. "You don't give a damn."

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