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Arkansas lawmakers address gun violence and measures to prevent mass shootings

The minimum age limit to purchase assault rifles in Arkansas is 18. Congress and some governors are revisiting whether or not to raise the age limit.

ARKANSAS, USA — It’s now been more than a week since the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is openly discussing school safety on the national stage. 

The governor was on CBS Mornings Wednesday, June 1, discussing what he thinks needs to be done to make schools safer.  

“We are a great nation and we have to protect our children at school,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson says there isn’t a more important topic than school safety. He fully supports the Second Amendment and thinks there needs to be a conversation about the age requirement for purchasing an AR-15. Right now, the minimum age is 18.

“We really do not want to take away the right of our citizens to protect themselves, to enjoy it whether it is a type of gun that is a semi-automatic," he said. "We have those and it’s just the age limit between 18 and 21 that I think is a fair part of the debate."

According to the Associated Press (AP), this is prompting Congress and some governors and state lawmakers to revisit the question of whether to raise the minimum age for purchasing such high-powered weapons. 

The AP reports only six states require someone to be at least 21 years old to buy rifles and shotguns. Advocates argue that such a limit might have prevented the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead and the racially motivated supermarket attack in Buffalo, New York, that killed 10.

Senators on both sides of the aisle are working to find common ground on new gun control legislation as they head back into session next week.

Arkansas Senator John Boozman says schools should be a safe haven. 

“We all want to see this tragic pattern come to an end, but it’s important to work together on solutions that achieve that outcome and also protect our constitutional rights," Boozman said. "Our schools should be a safe haven and we should spare no resource to implement the kinds of measures it will take to secure them. It’s also clear the perpetrators share common characteristics that need to be identified earlier and result in appropriate intervention. As talks in the Senate proceed, I will evaluate all proposals to ensure they balance the federal government’s role with the need to ensure law-abiding Americans retain our freedoms and liberties."

Arkansas Representative Steve Womack says the profound pain and innocent lives stolen in Uvalde are unfathomable.  

“This sickening tragedy shows the deep cracks and crises of the heart and mind that have permeated our society," he said. "No child should have to face this type of evil—and we must address the root causes of this horrific violence. Bipartisan reforms should be focused on identifying and intervening with high-risk individuals, ensuring well-coordinated and trained law enforcement, and enhancing the safety of our schools."  

Gov. Hutchinson agrees mental health is an important part of this discussion.

"I applaud the senators that have this all on the table and we have to get away from being so divided and say is there something we can agree upon," he said. "It’s going to be narrow, it’s going to be focused but the question is will it make a difference."

Arkansas Representative Bruce Westerman says the tragic loss of life in Uvalde is too horrific for words.  

"These were acts of pure evil by a very sick individual," he said. "No parent should be afraid of sending their child to school, and we must find a way to bring security back to education. Unfortunately, the solutions put forth by Congressional Democrats are not solutions at all, but lip service to promote their agenda to limit the Second Amendment for law abiding citizens. I am closely evaluating possible legislation to create deterrents for shootings like these and make schools more secure without infringing on all Americans' constitutional rights."

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