Fact check: Is Abbott right that raising age for AR purchases is unconstitutional?

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Nusaiba MizanSeptember 21, 2022 12:59 pm, , ,

From PolitiFact:

Amid calls for a special legislative session after the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has not changed his stance on gun laws or on calling a special session.

Uvalde community members have called on officials to raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 to purchase semi-automatic rifles, like the AR-15-like assault-style rifle used to kill 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary. Some states have raised the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

While campaigning for reelection on Aug. 31, Abbott said the law that Uvalde residents are seeking “has already been ruled to be unconstitutional.”

“There have been three court rulings since May that have made it clear that it is unconstitutional to ban someone between the ages of 18 and 20 from being able to buy an AR. That came out of the federal court of appeals,” Abbott said, also claiming there was a Supreme Court decision that upheld the ruling. He also said “a federal court in Texas struck down the Texas law that banned people between the ages of 18 and 20 from buying a handgun.”

“So it is clear that the gun control law that they’re seeking in Uvalde, as much as they may want it, it has already been ruled to be unconstitutional,” said Abbott, a former Texas attorney general and Texas Supreme Court justice.

PolitiFact Texas took “AR” in Abbott’s claim to mean AR-15, a type of semi-automatic weapon. For the purposes of this fact-check, we looked at whether the rulings pertained to AR-15s, or more broadly semi-automatic weapons.

PolitiFact Texas spoke with experts and found that Abbott spoke broadly on those court rulings, and there has been no Supreme Court ruling addressing the constitutionality of raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon.

Our Ruling

Abbott claimed that three court rulings since May 2022 “have made it clear that it is unconstitutional to ban someone between the ages of 18 and 20 from being able to buy an AR.”

Only one of the cases Abbott cited directly addressed the question of limiting purchase of a semi-automatic rifle. A California judge ruled the age restriction was constitutional and an appeals court disagreed, before vacating the ruling after Abbott’s statement. But Abbott also didn’t mention a case in Florida that is currently being appealed, where a judge found the age limit did pass constitutional muster.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in on an age limit.

We rate Abbott’s claim Mostly False.

Read the full story at PolitiFact, and listen to an interview with PolitiFact Texas’ Nusaiba Mizan in the audio player above.

Radio story produced by Kristen Cabrera

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