The fatal shooting of 19 children and two adults at a Texas elementary school has renewed calls for a crackdown on gun ownership in the United States and reform of the nation’s gun laws.
the attack in the town of Uvalde is the deadliest school shooting in the United States since the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut in 2012, when a gunman killed 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six staff members before returning the weapon against himself.
Since then, there have been another 3,500 mass shootings across the United States.
Then-Vice President Joe Biden was tasked with toughening gun laws in the months and years that followed, but several attempts were blocked by Republican senators and gun lobbyists. fire.
New images of the killer and his weapons appear – follow the live updates
Here Sky News takes a closer look at how US gun laws work and why they are so difficult to change.
Federal Laws and Second Amendment
The right to bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution under the Second Amendment.
This means that alongside the right to free speech and the practice of religion, having a firearm is a basic right for Americans.
As a result, about a third of American adults own a gun, according to a Pew Research Center study in June last year.
Forty percent say they live in a household with a gun, according to its survey.
Federal gun laws, which apply to all states, are largely covered by 11 pieces of legislation.
They establish basic national criteria for the issuance of firearms licenses, but there are considerable gaps.
Individual states have their own laws which, depending on their policy direction, strengthen or relax federal requirements.
Gun laws are largely dictated at the state level due to the filibuster mechanism in the Senate, where the laws are passed, allowing the minority party (currently the Republicans) to debate issues indefinitely. laws and therefore to prevent their adoption.
Who is not allowed to have a gun?
Under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, people are not allowed to have a gun license if they are:
- Under 18 for rifles and 21 for all other weapons
- a fugitive
- An illegal user or addict of a controlled substance (including marijuana users in states where it is legal)
- Illegally in the United States or in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa
- Have been dishonorably charged by the U.S. Armed Forces
- Have been involuntarily hospitalized or committed to a mental health or addiction treatment facility by a court
- Have been convicted or charged with a federal crime with a prison term of more than one year
- Have been convicted or charged with a state crime (which is not a misdemeanor) with a prison term of more than one year
- Have been convicted or charged with a state crime considered a misdemeanor with a prison term of more than two years
- Have been convicted of a domestic violence offense
- Have been deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or others or lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs
- Subject to court restraining order for harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner, child or child of their partner
To establish a person’s eligibility for a firearms license, the seller is supposed to conduct a background check.
Background checks were expanded in 2012 by a change to FBI databases, meaning they now include people prohibited from having firearms under state law as well as the federal law.
However, firearms are increasingly being sold unregulated and without background checks on the Internet and by unlicensed sellers, creating a major loophole.
There are also different rules for different types of weapons.
In general, automatic weapons are subject to greater restrictions, with semi-automatic and non-automatic firearms being largely legal outside the laws of the states that restrict them.
Some states also ban “high capacity” weapon magazines, a type of storage device.
How do state laws differ?
All states except Vermont have their own laws that prohibit people from having guns if they have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison.
In Vermont, this only applies to “violent crimes,” such as murder, assault, domestic violence, and stalking.
In California, Colorado, and Connecticut, people are prohibited from having firearms if they have committed various petty offenses, including those involving violence, the use of firearms, and felonies. hateful.
New Jersey state law is stricter than federal law, prohibiting gun licenses to those convicted of any offense with sentences longer than six months.
Illinois state law prohibits people from having firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor for certain violent offenses within the last five years.
Some states also have specific gun restrictions for those convicted of stalking offenses, those with substance abuse or mental health issues.
Texas, which is majority Republican, recently passed several laws making guns easier to access.
On Sept. 1 of last year, a “constitutional carry” law went into effect, meaning Texans over the age of 21 no longer need a license to carry a handgun in public. .
Laws have also been passed to allow hotel guests to have guns in their rooms and gun owners to carry guns in any holster they choose.
Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor, also passed legislation making Texas a “Second Amendment sanctuary state,” guaranteeing protections from any new federal gun regulations.
Red Flag Laws
Some states have their own laws that allow courts to confiscate weapons from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
They are known as “red flag laws” because requests for such “extreme risk protection orders” often come from friends or relatives who have expressed concern about the person’s behavior. Local authorities can also request it.
Currently, 19 states and Washington DC have their own red flag laws in place.
In particular, Texas, where the school shooting arrived on Tuesday, has none.
The first was adopted in Connecticut after Michael Beck, an accountant who had shown signs of stress and mental health issues, shot and stabbed four of his colleagues in 1998.
National red flag bills have been introduced in Congress but repeatedly failed.
Why is it so difficult to restrict guns in the United States?
With its long-standing constitutional right to bear arms, reducing access and the number of guns in the United States has always seemed nearly impossible.
Powerful pro-gun groups, namely the National Rifle Association (NRA), have been active since the turn of the 20th century.
The NRA spends around $3m (£2.4m) a year lobbying politicians to vote in favor of protecting gun rights.
Republican congressmen receive thousands of campaign dollars in return for voting against any new restrictions.
Among those who benefited the most were Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida.
With Republicans traditionally holding pro-gun attitudes, the onus is largely on Democratic administrations to try to change federal gun laws.
As senator from Delaware in 1994, Mr. Biden helped Bill Clinton ban assault weapons, but that only lasted 10 years.
As Barack Obama’s vice president, Mr Biden orchestrated 23 executive actions against gun violence after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Eventually, in 2013, a bill that would have dramatically expanded background checks was defeated in the Senate.
What do we know about the Texas school shooting so far?
Frantic parents say they waited for news after 19 children died
Biden – Why do we keep letting this happen?
In the aftermath of a 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 people dead, President Donald Trump stunned his fellow Republicans by going against the NRA and calling for “comprehensive” new legislation on fire arms.
He warned other members of his party not to be “petrified” by lobbyists and that something had to be done.
Ultimately, however, despite banning devices called bump stocks that help aim semi-automatic rifles, no federal changes were made.
Since entering the Oval Office, President Biden has yet to successfully amend gun laws, despite proposing four sets of executive actions.
In an address on Tuesday after the Texas shooting, he said: “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”