By now, you have probably heard the news. Last week, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her shooting instructor while firing an Uzi at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona. In the public outcry that followed, the Law Center received many requests from the media about how a tragedy like this could even occur. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. In 2008, a similar shooting occurred in Massachusetts when an 8-year-old boy lost his life while handling an Uzi at a gun show.
The unfortunate reality is very few states have laws on the books prohibiting child access to powerful automatic weapons. These horrific incidents highlight the need for stronger laws that restrict easy access to firearms by children and cut down on accidental shootings. The problem is real: between 1999 and 2010, more than 8,300 Americans were killed by accidental gun fire and roughly 25% of those deaths were young people under the age of 21. Each year in America, over 16,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for unintentional gunshot wounds.
Despite these sobering numbers, far too many states, like Arizona, do not have any laws in place to keep guns out of the hands of small children. When it comes to the strength of its laws to reduce gun violence, the Law Center gives Arizona an “F.” Unfortunately, 24 other states currently receive the same failing grade. To learn more about weak gun laws in Arizona, visit our Arizona State Law Summary. To learn more about your state’s gun laws, visit Gun Laws by State.
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld federal laws and regulations that prohibit federally licensed dealers from selling handguns to individuals who are younger than 21. The Fifth Circuit explained that laws restricting teenagers and young adults from accessing firearms are consistent with a variety of longstanding gun safety regulations, including regulations that were in place at the time of nation’s founding. The court also cited statistics showing that gun crimes are most often committed with handguns and findings revealing that laws restricting access to handguns among individuals who are younger than 21 are associated with less crime.
To find out more about this case, Nat’l Rifle Ass’n v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives, visit our Second Amendment resources.
Under Texas law, an individual must be 21-years-old in order to obtain a permit to legally carry a concealed handgun outside of the home. Several individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 who wanted to carry concealed weapons in Texas filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the age restriction violated the Second Amendment in Jennings v. McCraw.
HOW SAFETY WINS
A judge in Texas upheld the challenged law. He found that the Second Amendment is limited to allowing an individual to keep a firearm at home for the purpose of self-defense, and therefore, that the Second Amendment does not guarantee a right to carry a firearm outside of the home, regardless of one’s age. Thus, the judge did not need to consider the appropriateness of the age restriction. The ruling is particularly significant for its strong, definitive language finding that the Second Amendment does not extend outside of the home.